ClanDestine Classic

Written and penciled by Alan Davis
Inked by Mark Farmer
312 pages, color
Published by Marvel

When Alan Davis’s ClanDestine first debuted in the mid-90s, I remember absolutely loving it almost instantly; to me it was a perfect mix of superhero struggles and family squabbles. Davis’s run ended after just eight issues, with a later X-Men vs. the ClanDestine mini-series wrapping up his time with the characters. Now that he’s returned to them for a new mini-series, his older work with the characters is back for another outing in a handsome collection—and it’s interesting to review those stories a little later and wiser and see just how I feel about them now. Sometimes, the memory really does cheat just a bit.

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Otto’s Orange Day

Written by Jay Lynch
Art by Frank Cammuso
40 pages, color
Published by Toon Books

Françoise Mouly is known for all sorts of accomplishments; being the co-editor and publisher of the independent comics anthology RAW, a lengthy stint as the art director for The New Yorker, curator of art exhibits. I must admit, though, that when I hear her name one of the first things that leaps to mind for me is her work on the Little Lit series of books, taking both cartoonists and children’s book creators and having them collaborate to create short stories using the comic book format but pushed through the children’s book market. Now, Mouly’s done it again with her new line of Toon Books, creating children’s books that are told using comic books’s sequential art. When the end result is like Jay Lynch and Frank Cammuso’s Otto’s Orange Day, well, it’s hard to believe that more people aren’t doing just this.

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By Jason Shiga
144 pages, two-color
Published by Sparkplug Comics

I don’t really understand how Jason Shiga’s mind works, but I’m always impressed. His comic Fleep was a brilliant mathematical puzzle combined with the ultimate locked-room mystery of a man trapped inside a phone booth encased in rock, and in some ways it’s one of his more standard creations, with books like Meanwhile and Hello World being interactive creations with a myriad of possibilities. When I saw that his new book, Bookhunter, was a pretty standard story I was prepared to be disappointed. What I got, though, was anything but disappointment.

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Fairy Tail Vol. 1-2

By Hiro Mashima
208 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

Towards the end of 2007, Viz unleashed “Naruto Nation” on stores, releasing three volumes of the manga a month for several months. Naruto sales stayed strong, showing that if people want a series enough it doesn’t matter how quickly another installment hits shelves. Now Del Rey is kicking off Hiro Mashima’s latest series Fairy Tail with the first two volumes being simultaneously released. Now that I’ve sat down and read them both, I have to say that Del Rey made a really smart move, here.

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Life Sucks

Written by Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria
Art by Warren Pleece
192 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

If there’s a genre that has almost no permutations left these days, it’s vampire fiction. Each new spin has been seen before, and every new project can be traced backwards, somehow, to something else. In many ways, though, that’s actually a good thing. It means that people who do write in the genre have a wide variety of avenues available to them that automatically feel familiar to the audience; it lets the creators focus more on the story itself and less on the trappings. In the case of Life Sucks, that’s a good thing—the basic idea may hardly be original, but it’s the characters that help drive the book.

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Kindaichi Case Files Vol. 16: The Magical Express

Written by Yozaburo Kanari
Art by Fumiya Sato
304 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

A lot of long-running series, over time, grow stale. They start going through the motions of what is expected of them rather than what is new and interesting, and it turns into something approaching monotony. I think that’s one of the many reasons why Yozaburo Kanari and Fumiya Sato’s series The Kindaichi Case Files sticks out so much in my mind. We’re sixteen volumes into the series now, and with each new mystery adventure I find myself absolutely dying to purchase it and find out what happens next.

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By Jeff Smith
32 pages, black and white
Published by Cartoon Books

It’s probably safe to say, these days, that Jeff Smith can do just about whatever he wants in comics. His first major series, Bone, was a massive success in both the self-publishing world as well as being picked up for color editions by Scholastic Books. Now, having finished a long-promised Shazam! mini-series for DC Comics, Smith could have certainly taken his new project to any published he wanted. Instead, he’s returned to self-publishing and in a serialized format. And somehow, that seems like just the right approach.

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Aqua Vol. 1

By Kozue Amano
192 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

With the wealth of manga being translated into English, it’s understandable if one initially misses out on a few books the first time around. That’s certainly my excuse when it comes to Kozue Amano’s series Aqua and Aria. At a glance, there’s not a whole lot to lure you in—a young woman learning how to become a gondolier. Once I finally sat down and read the first volume, though, I realized that this is more than just the story of someone learning their job. Rather, it’s a travelogue across another planet.

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Classics Illustrated: Great Expectations

Adapted by Rick Geary
Based on the novel by Charles Dickens
56 pages, color
Published by Papercutz

I remember as a child reading some of the original Classics Illustrated books at my library. It’s a simple but brilliant concept, adapting classics of literature into comic books, as a way to get younger readers exposed to great works in a slightly easier fashion. There have been a number of incarnations over the years, and the latest is Papercutz’s line, kicking off with Rick Geary’s Great Expectations. And in terms of a first book for the line, I can’t help but think that the choice is a little odd.

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Tonoharu Vol. 1

By Lars Martinson
128 pages, two-color
Published by Pliant Press; distributed by Top Shelf Productions

Every once in a while, a book appears in front of you that makes you really pause the second you see it. That was absolutely the case for me with Tonoharu: Part One by Lars Martinson. It’s perhaps a bit unfair to get your hopes up based strictly on the production values and book design, but that’s exactly what happened here. It had been a while since I was surprised by something that was both simple and beautiful, and if the interior craft matched the exterior, well, I knew I was about to read something great.

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