Oishinbo: A la Carte: Japanese Cuisine

Written by Tetsu Kariya
Art by Akira Hanasaki
272 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

I love that in Japan, it’s nothing out of the ordinary to have a comic centered around cooking. In the case of Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki’s Oishinbo, though, it’s all the more impressive when you consider that the comic has run since 1983, with over 100 collections to date in Japan. What to do to try and hook new readers who perhaps don’t have the time or attention span to plow through over 20,000 pages of manga? Enter the Oishinbo: A la Carte series, where each volume is a "best-of" compilation around a specific type of food. Now that Viz has translated the first volume, Oishinbo: A la Carte: Japanese Cuisine, I’m quite happy to say that creating that sort of collection was absolutely the way to go.

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Never As Bad As You Think

Written by Kathryn Immonen
Art by Stuart Immonen
64 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios

By now, I think most people know how some "gimmick" comics work. The most popular/well-known is the 24-hour comic, where the creator(s) of the comic have just 24 hours to conceive of, write, draw, and letter a completed comic book. What I’m actually more intrigued with, though, is Kathryn and Stuart Immonen’s tactic for creating Never As Bad As You Think. Originally serialized online, each strip was written by using a word chosen randomly by another website. Then, as soon as Kathryn Immonen wrote the script, Stuart Immonen had to start drawing that week’s creation. Not only is it an interesting challenge, but the impressive thing is that Never As Bad As You Think comes across as if it was always planned this way.

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By Inio Asano
432 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Sometimes, it’s just the cover image that sells you on a book. With a comic like Solanin, it’s easy to see how that would happen. With the lead character’s face staring out at the reader, band-aid under one eye, cap on head, it’s hard to not feel your heart soften a bit at even a glance. And from there, it’s not far to looking at the insides and discovering that it looks even more enchanting, with its group of recent college graduates and their interactions. But the reality is that despite all the cuteness, this is a book that’s a lot tougher than you might initially think—and it’s that toughness that makes Solanin that much more memorable.

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Punisher #1

Written by Rick Remender
Art by Jerome Opena
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

Just how many Punisher #1s can there really be? By my count, Marvel’s latest Punisher #1 is actually the eighth. There’s the original 1985 mini-series, the original 1987 ongoing series, the 1995 "back down to just one title" ongoing series, the 1998 Marvel Knights mini-series involving angels and mystic guns, the 2000 Marvel Knights mini-series that brought him back to basics, the follow-up 2001 ongoing series, and then the 2004 ongoing series under the MAX mature readers imprint. And that’s not including, of course, all of the other titles over the years like Punisher War Journal (both of them), Punisher War Zone (both of them), Punisher 2099… you get the idea. All of this is really a long way of asking the question, can this latest Punisher #1 stand out amid an already pretty large herd?

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #21

Written by Jane Espenson
Penciled by Georges Jeanty
Inked by Andy Owens
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

I actually feel bad for most people who have worked on other licensed comic books in the past, or plan on doing so in the future, because they’re almost certainly going to be compared to Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight. It certainly doesn’t hurt matters that tv show creator and front-runner Joss Whedon has written some of the issues and is "executive producing" the rest, but it’s been more than just that—the comic is showing such a nice freedom to do anything and everything that it’s hard for a fan of the show to not get sucked into its pages.

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Walking Man

By Jiro Taniguchi
160 pages, black and white
Published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon

A few months ago, I finally replaced a book of mine that had gone mysteriously "missing." I say it that way because I am pretty sure I lent it to someone else who then conveniently never returned it. Normally this drives me mad, but when the book is Jiro Taniguchi’s The Walking Man I almost have to understand. After all, when a book this wonderfully good yet simple crosses your path, it’s hard to not instantly fall in love with it. If nothing else, the fact that I ended up buying a new copy says that this is the kind of book that I’ll enjoy re-reading again and again, doesn’t it?

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Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude

By Carol Lay
200 pages, color
Published by Villard Books

As soon as I saw Carol Lay’s The Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude, I knew I had to read it. After all, in early 2004 I’d looked at a photo of myself and decided, "Enough is enough." Ten months later, I’d dropped 60 pounds of fat and have since kept them off. So if there was ever a graphic novel memoir that I had a chance of completely and utter relating to, this was it.

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Robots & Donuts

By Eric Joyner
184 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

Art books are my weakness. Seriously, I could buy nothing but art books and be one very happy person. I used to say that I had one entire bookshelf of nothing but art books, but I have to be honest that it’s actually expanded beyond that shelf. And that was even after, regretfully, giving away some of the books that I just didn’t have room for. I think my partner is at times a little bemused by the number of graphic novels and trade paperbacks that line my bookshelves, but recently I was informed that I really shouldn’t ever give away any art books if I’m looking to pare down the collection. All of this is a long, round-about way of saying that a good art book is worth its weight in gold for me, and while I’d never heard of Eric Joyner before Dark Horse published his book Robots & Donuts, this is a book that isn’t being given away any time soon.

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Youngblood #1-6

Written by Joe Casey
Art by Derec Donovan
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

Ah, Youngblood. The very first publication of Image Comics back in 1992, Rob Liefeld’s creation is one that has shown up in many different forms and incarnations—but ultimately ones that never quite seemed to last. This latest incarnation is courtesy Joe Casey and Derec Donovan, who are in many ways taking Youngblood back to its original concept. I have to give them credit, too; for the first time that I can remember, that concept seems to have actually shown up in the comic itself.

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X-Men: Kingbreaker #1

Written by Christopher Yost
Penciled by Dustin Weaver
Inked by Jaime Mendoza
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

I have to admit, it’s rather nice to see Marvel Comics having returned to embracing their outer space characters and settings these past few years. As a younger reader, I remember finding so many of their alien races and planets to be my cup of tea, and it was sad to see them all set aside for years. One of the latest books in this vein is X-Men: Kingbreaker, a follow-up to the stories that began with Uncanny X-Men‘s relatively recent return to outer space and the Shi’Ar Empire. But while it’s certainly enjoyable enough, I can’t help but feel that this first issue is slightly stalling for time.

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