Wolverine: Prodigal Son Vol. 1

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Wilson Tortosa
192 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

I know, it sounds at first like a bet gone wrong. A manga version of one of the most popular comic book characters of all time? But that’s exactly what Del Rey (with the obvious cooperation of Marvel Comics) aimed to do with Wolverine: Prodigal Son. It’s not a bad idea when you think about it; take the core ideas of what make the character popular and then map them onto another style. Considering Marvel has published every other alternate version possible of their own characters, it’s not a bad idea. But will manga fans pick it up? And if so, just what will they find?

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Color of Earth

By Kim Dong Hwa
320 pages, black and white
Published by First Second Books

When the manga boom first really erupted into North America, a lot of publishers began also translating Korean comics (or manhwa) into English. One of the big benefits was that manhwa already is read left-to-right, so it didn’t have to go through the whole issue of "flipping" versus reading right-to-left. These days very little manhwa is being translated as the boom has settled back down into a more reasonable level, but occasionally a new manhwa shows up, like Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth. I think most people would agree that it’s books like The Color of Earth that are a good reminder why ignoring manhwa would cut us off from a whole wealth of really good comics.

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By Lilli Carré
80 pages, black and white
Published by Fantagraphics Books

When you hear a title like The Lagoon, you might end up thinking about a dark, murky sort of experience, thanks to the titles of works like Creature from the Black Lagoon. When I picked up Lilli Carré’s The Lagoon, though, I found myself very pleasantly surprised to find something entirely different; a forbidden love story that despite being a print book, has a real sense of music to it.

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20th Century Boys Vol. 1

By Naoki Urasawa
216 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Every now and then I hear from someone from my childhood. Even before social networking sites like Facebook, Friendster, or MySpace rolled out and made it so much easier for people to connect, I’d get e-mails out of the blue, often from people that I went to school with. (Having your own website, occasional pull quotes on books, and a very uncommon last name helps matters.) Sometimes I’d know who the person was instantly and be delighted to hear from them. Sometimes the name would ring a bell and it would take a while to turn the hazy memory into a picture in my head.

But every now and then, I’d have no idea who the person was. I’d pull out my high school yearbooks, look at the person’s face, and think, "I have no memory of you at all." We had classes together, sometimes even mutual friends, and the person had still entirely slipped out of my memory. With Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, then, I found myself appreciating the fact that this is a story about a group of adults whose past is coming back to haunt them—but most of them don’t remember some or all of the details. It’s just the tip of the iceberg, needless to say, but still the perfect place to begin.

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Batman Confidential #26-28

Written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir
Penciled by José Luis Garcia-López
Inked by Kevin Nowlan
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

When is a Batman villain not a Batman villain? For the longest time, the answer to that particular riddle could have been, "King Tut." While the character appeared five times in the 1960s Batman television show (more than any other villain created for the show), he’d never actually been in the comics—well, for over 40 years, at any rate. I have to give Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir credit, while the idea seems more than a little silly, the duo have found just the right angle that warrants this particular story.

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French Milk

By Lucy Knisley
208 pages, black and white
Published by Touchstone

The idea of journeying to another country for a month or so and just enjoying the new locale is an enticing one. No going to a job, no tight schedule, just renting an apartment and enjoying the culture and food. For that reason alone, when I first heard about French Milk by Lucy Knisley I thought that I needed to take a look at it. After I’d seen some of her online comics, though, French Milk moved from the "should take a look" list over to, "you need this book." As it turned out? I was right.

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A Drifting Life

By Yoshihiro Tatsumi
856 pages, black and white
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

I really have to commend Drawn & Quarterly for bringing Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s comics into English. They’ve already released three collections of his short stories, ones which reek of discomfort and alienation among every day, real people. I was a little wary, though, when I heard that their next Tatsumi project was an autobiography that ran over 800 pages long and only tackled a small fraction of his life. Could Tatsumi really have that much to say? As it turned out, I was very wrong for doubting; A Drifting Life may be set in the 1940s and 1950s, but it has quite a bit to say about here and now.

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Sandman Mystery Theatre Vol. 7: The Mist and the Phantom of the Fair

Written by Matt Wagner and Steven T. Seagle
Art by Guy Davis
200 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

The past few years, Vertigo’s released a new volume of Sandman Mystery Theatre just in time for spring. While I’ll admit that I’m a relatively recent convert to the series, it hasn’t stopped me from really appreciating what Matt Wagner, Steven T. Seagle, and Guy Davis all brought to the series. With the release of Sandman Mystery Theatre Vol. 7: The Mist and the Phantom of the Fair, though, this is a book that might have some special to Starman fans—especially with the Starman Omnibus series now hitting shelves.

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Oishinbo: A la carte: Sake

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

When I read Oishinbo: A la carte: Japanese Cuisine earlier this year, I enjoyed it. A series all about different foods, going for the generic theme of Japanese cuisine for the first volume seemed like a good way to kick off these specially themed, best-of compilations from this series that’s run for over 25 years now. Now that I’ve read the second volume, Sake, I’m starting to really see just what Oishinbo is really capable of—and how much better the second volume really is.

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In the Flesh

By Koren Shadmi
160 pages, black and white
Published by Villard Books

I’ll freely admit that I started reading Koren Shadmi’s collection In the Flesh because of the pull quote from Rutu Modan. (I’ve just heard an entire publicity department jumping for joy, screaming, "They work! They work!") I’ve loved Modan’s comics for years, and while Exit Wounds pushed her into the well-deserved spotlight, her short stories for the Actus Group have shown that she really understands the medium. So if she was pushing Shadmi’s short stories, well, the book certainly deserved a look at my end.

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