Memoir #1

Written by Ben McCool
Art by Nikki Cook
32 pages, black and white
Published by Image Comics

One of the things I’ve found myself enjoying from Image Comics lately is the number of compelling-sounding projects by talents ready to step up their profile in the comics industry and have their big break-out hit. I’m not sure who at Image is bringing all of these new books in, but even when they don’t succeed creatively (they can’t all be a Walking Dead, Chew, or Morning Glories), the wealth of ideas and concepts have been impressive. So with that in mind, I figured it was time to scoop up Memoir #1 from Ben McCool and Nikki Cook; once again, it had a concept that seemed worth following through.

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Doctor Who #1

Written by Tony Lee
Art by Andrew Currie
32 pages, color
Published by IDW

Writing a licensed comic for a current property isn’t easy, because you’ve got to simultaneously come up with ideas for the characters and also not create anything long-lasting because there’s something else that automatically trumps anything you think of. So on the one hand, I’m willing to allow a little leeway. On the other hand, there’s also room for less leeway because if you don’t like the comic, well, you’ve got the original to check out instead. You know how that goes.

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Marineman #1-2

By Ian Churchill
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

There are so many jokes about Aquaman’s powers being fairly useless that it’s ceased to be a geek piece of knowledge and entered the general lexicon. (When even Saturday Night Live has gotten in on the act, you know it’s getting stale.) So with that in mind, I have to give credit where it’s due: Ian Churchill is awfully gutsy in having his brand-new, creator-owned comic be Marineman. I suspect Churchill’s already written all of the mockery himself at this point. But while he’s no Aquaman, Marineman ultimately became a book that both was and was the comic I was expecting when I first heard about it.

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Northlanders #35-36

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Becky Cloonan
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

With the temperature well below freezing in the DC area, it’s nice to pull on some blankets, eat a hot bowl of homemade soup, and get down to an afternoon of reading. But ironically, the idea of reading about warm, sunny destinations gets old before long, so it seemed like the perfect time to give the latest Northlanders story, the two-part "The Girl in the Ice," a whirl. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder that while it may be cold in my neck of the woods, it could just as easily be distinctly worse out, and not just because of the advent of modern heating.

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Twin Spica Vol. 5

By Kou Yaginuma
208 pages, black and white
Published by Vertical, Inc.

Since Vertical launched their English editions of Twin Spica last year, it’s been fun to receive a new installment every two months and watch the story unfold—in no small part because Kou Yaginuma has quietly been tweaking the story since those early chapters, adding and discarding elements as he sees fit. By this fifth volume, it’s juggling two related but tonally different storylines, one involving training for Japan’s astronaut program and a second one about memories of young love. The latter is aided by the ghost of "Mr. Lion," whom Yaginuma seems to be trying to keep relevant to the story by showing his past with Asumi’s classmate Marika. If we didn’t already have the storyline involving Marika’s health issues, this might have seemed more out of the blue, but instead it serves a purpose by giving us more information about this secretive character.

Still, the primary draw for me remains the training for space, and after meandering away from it for a while, the second half of the book is taken up primarily by a training exercise that the entire class goes on. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the series to date, with what seems like a simple simulation suddenly turning into a much more challenging event. Child-sized Asumi is our main focus here, and I appreciate the fact that Yaginuma is able to cast doubt into the reader’s mind on if she’s really cut out to be an astronaut. Considering she’s our main character, the fact he can plant that doubt is a good one. His delicate art style assists in that manner; watching the battered Asumi stumble through the challenge wouldn’t be half as effective if she seemed buff and sturdy. With its twin love affairs of childhood romance and the yearning for space, Twin Spica continues to draw its readers in, and is worthy of staying on your radar. If you ever wanted to be an astronaut, you’ve got to read this series.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

DC Comics: The 75th Anniversary Poster Book

Compiled by Robert Schnakenberg
208 pages, color
Published by Quirk Books

If you’re like me, you might have secretly hoped that Santa Claus would bring you Paul Levitz’s 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking coffee table book (suggested retail price: $200) and came up empty-handed. If that’s the case, I’m happy that there’s a much lower cost alternative available: the DC Comics: The 75th Anniversary Poster Book. Sure, it’s not quite the same thing, but there are some similarities. At its 11×15" dimensions, it’s going to look beautiful sitting on your coffee table, and it shows off 100 classic covers from the past 75 years, as well as providing commentary to explain either the significance of the cover, or some words about the artist. Needless to say, all of the obvious ones are there: Superman #1, Action Comics #1, Detective Comics #27, Flash Comics #1, Green Lantern #1, Adventure Comics #247, The Flash #123… but so many more are present, too.

I appreciate that the book goes for some of the more oddball comics early on, like Superman beating up a lion (Action Comics #27), a superhero baseball game (World’s Finest Comics #3), a Wonder Woman Christmas cover (Sensation Comics #38), Zebra Batman (Detective Comics #275), or ones you might have never even heard of (Mr. District Attorney #12 or Leave it to Binky #60). We’ve also got iconic covers like Joe Orlando’s beckoning hand on The House of Mystery #174, or the first Diana Prince: Wonder Woman cover (Wonder Woman #178). The commentary from Robert Schnakenberg is just a paragraph or so, but it’s still informative and fun reading. And of course, depending on when you first started reading comics, you’ll start seeing covers you’re familiar with (perhaps The Killing Joke, or Ronin #1, or if you’re even newer to comics there’s always Batman #608 and All-Star Superman #10) but at a larger size than you’re used to. Plus, of course, the pages are all detachable should you wish to make them into actual posters. Sure, it’s not Levitz’s coffee table book, but it’s a fun romp through DC’s history, and it’s nice to see covers like Hellblazer #1 alongside Superman #14. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon, or even just flipping through during a commercial break.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

Return of the Dapper Men

Written by Jim McCann
Art by Janet Lee
128 pages, color
Published by Archaia Comics

There’s a certain rhythm and storytelling style to children’s books that I’ve always appreciated; that exploration of the mythic and the feeling that you’re getting a story that will stand the test of time, even if it’s brand new. It’s a feel I kept getting when reading Jim McCann and Janet Lee’s Return of the Dapper Men, with its clockwork people and city where time has stopped. What struck me the most after finishing this book was that McCann and Lee have created a book where style has slightly won out over substance, but that as a reader you’ll be just fine with that.

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Littlest Pirate King

Adapted by David B.
Based on a story by Pierre Mac Orlan
48 pages, color
Published by Fantagraphics

For being a comic book powerhouse in France, it’s a little surprising that not much of David B.’s works have made it to North America. He’s probably best known for his autobiographical book Epileptic, and his dream diary Nocturnal Conspiracies and ongoing series (and Epileptic follow-up) Babel are also translated. After all of those deeply personal books, though, I was a little surprised to find a new book from B. now in English… about the undead crew of the infamous Flying Dutchman ship.

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Weird Worlds #1

Written by Kevin VanHook, Aaron Lopresti, and Kevin Maguire
Penciled by Jerry Ordway, Aaron Lopresti, and Kevin Maguire
Inked by Jerry Ordway, Matt Ryan, and Kevin Maguire
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

When done right, I like anthology comics a great deal. There’s a nice hook to having multiple stories to read in a comic, so even if there’s one part which might not be clicking quite for you, there are still others waiting to be read. (Of course, that means there needs to be more hits than misses.) So I found myself a little curious about Weird Worlds, DC’s new anthology mini-series promising some strange settings and characters. What I got? Well, a mixed bag is a good way to describe it as any.

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Kurozakuro Vol. 1

By Yoshinori Natsume
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

The first volume of Kurozakuro performs a rather effective fake-out on its reader. Its first 50 page chapter sets its reader’s expectations up on just what sort of comic Kurozakuro will be, letting everyone imagine how the rest of the series will slowly unfold. And then, just when you’re convinced of the status quo, the second chapter rolls along and cheerfully proves you wrong and sends the book zipping down a different, more interesting path. That’s the kind of fake-out I approve of, wholeheartedly.

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