Kampung Boy

By Lat
144 pages, black and white
Published by First Second Books

There’s something about books set in a foreign culture that just enthralls me. It’s a chance to live in someone else’s shoes and experience through their eyes what a location halfway around the world (that I’d never otherwise see) is really like. When First Second Books announced they were publishing the first of Malaysian comics giant Lat’s Kampung Boy books, my attention was suitably grabbed. Here was a chance to travel not only to a different country, but with the story set in the 1950s it would be a different time as well. But once one gets past the initial thrill of a different culture, the question still remains: is the book actually any good?

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American Born Chinese

By Gene Luen Yang
240 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

A couple of years ago, Gene Luen Yang began to release segments of American Born Chinese as mini-comics. I’d remembered his work from comics like Gordon Yamato and the King of the Geeks and Duncan’s Kingdom and that was enough to persuade me to give this new project a try. At the time, I remember thinking that I had absolutely no idea where this was going, and was more than a little unsure of it as a whole. Now that the book is complete and published as a single unit, my only real question is why I’d ever doubted him in the first place.

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Kurogane Vol. 1

By Kei Toume
224 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

A young man turned into a cyborg in order to save his life after being torn to pieces. A talking sword that speaks for its new, silent master. Is this the future? No, Kurogane is set in Japan’s feudal period. But does this merging of cyberpunk and samurai era adventure mesh together? Or is it a combination of flesh and metal that simply can’t fuse together?

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Hikaru no Go Vol. 7

Written by Yumi Hotta
Art by Takeshi Obata
216 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

One of the biggest problems with what I’ve started calling in my head “tournament comics” is that I can never read them for too long. Essentially, it’s a comic where the protagonist is going through a series of competitions, be it soccer, tennis, go, cooking, or even something like fighting ninjas or evil demons. Sooner or later, the comic always seems to fall into a rut where it’s yet another bad guy with an even bigger and tougher finishing move and our hero has to fight them against all odds and figure out just how to win yet again. That’s why when reading the latest volume of Hikaru no Go I found myself genuinely excited, because I think it’s one of the few books with this basic set-up that successfully avoids falling into that trap.

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Borrowed Time Vol. 1

Written by Neal Shaffer
Art by Joe Infurnari
80 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

The pacing of a story—be it serialized or as a single, complete unit—is important. The right sort of pacing can draw a reader into your book, but just as easily alienate them. When I’ve read comics in the past by Neal Shaffer, they’ve been either serialized as 32-page comics, or as full-fledged graphic novels. With Borrowed Time and its 80-page format, I couldn’t help but wonder just how Shaffer’s very distinct sense of pacing would translate. On paper, his new series about the Bermuda Triangle and the ultimate destination of things we lose sounds perfect for the format; but what would the end result actually be?

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Beyond! #1-2

Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Art by Scott Kolins
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 20 years since the release of Marvel’s original Secret Wars series. The concept was a simple but attractive one; take some of the company’s biggest characters and plunge them into an alien world in a fight for supremacy. Now Dwayne McDuffie and Scott Kolins are updating that idea for their new Beyond! mini-series starring a mixture of A- and C-list characters, and in many ways this new version is the far-more entertaining one to read.

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Tough Love: High School Confidential

By Abby Denson
144 pages, black and white
Published by Manic D Press

Not everything is for everyone. Sometimes you try something out and find it to be horrible, running away almost instantly. Sometimes you’re just indifferent to it, not able to muster up more of an opinion than, “It was all right.” And sometimes, you can’t figure out why you’re not connecting with a book until it all falls into place and you realize that you aren’t its target audience as you originally believed. It’s really meant for someone entirely different, and once you see that, you can appreciate just how much they’ll be into it. And that, for me, is exactly how I felt with Abby Denson’s Tough Love: High School Confidential.

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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

By Guy Delisle
184 pages, black and white
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Some places in the world are mysterious because they’re physically remote; places covered by jungle, or amidst treacherous mountainous terrain, or perhaps isolated islands within the Pacific Ocean. It was thinking along those lines that initially drew me to Guy Delisle’s graphic novel Pyongyang; it’s an incredibly remote place not through physicality, but rather because of a policy of isolationism. I expected to find a vague idea of what it’s like to live in North Korea through Delisle’s book. What I ended up with was so much more.

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Noble Boy

By Scott Morse
32 pages, color
Published by Red Window; distributed by AdHouse Books

I have a horrible confession to make; despite having seen a lot of and appreciating classic animation, I know very little about the people behind the scenes that created the works in the first place. That’s why Scott Morse’s Noble Boy seemed like such a dream made true, with his biography of animation great Maurice Noble hopefully illuminating people like myself into his life.

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Crow Princess

By Rachel Nabors
48 pages, black and white
Published by MangaPunk

Self-publishing is a leap of faith; instead of another company taking a chance on your creation, you’re putting your own money where your mouth is. Doing so with a manga-influenced modern fairy tale that can double as an educational story on crows? Now that’s one heck of a leap indeed.

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