Twin Spica Vol. 9

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

With so many manga series being translated into English these days, it’s easy for ones to get lost in the shuffle; doubly so when it comes to ones that aren’t on their first or second volume. In the case of books in Twin Spica, it would be a genuine shame if it became forgotten. Not only is this 12-volume series about a Japanese space academy charming, but its ninth volume is almost certainly its strongest installment to date.

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Celluloid

By Dave McKean
232 pages, color
Published by Fantagraphics

I’m a big fan of Dave McKean’s. Often dreamed of owning one of his covers. Read each issue of Cages as it was published and fell in love with it over and over again. Bought half a dozen copies of Cages and Pictures that Tick to give as gifts. Even bought some of his photography books over the years. So a new McKean graphic novel should have been the best news I’d heard all year. But now that I’ve read and re-read Celluloid, it’s hard to keep a bit of disappointment from creeping in, even as I can still admire its pluses.

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Feynman

Written by Jim Ottaviani
Art by Leland Myrick
272 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

I’ll admit right off the bat that I had no idea who Richard Feynman was a month ago. Feynman tells the story of the Nobel Prize winning physicist who not only worked on the Manhattan Project but had a lot to do with quantum electrodynamics and was kind of a big deal. This hardly sells the idea of reading a biography of the man, though. More importantly, Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick’s book tells the story of an eccentric genius who was one of the odder people you’d meet, and in a good way. Reading Feynman did what few other books about scientists have done for me; it made me think, "I wish I’d met this guy."

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Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #1

Written by Chris Roberson
Penciled by Jeffrey Moy
Inked by Philip Moy
32 pages, color
Published by IDW

A crossover between the Legion of Super-Heroes and Star Trek seems like such a no-brainer that, similar to Aliens vs Predator, it’s hard to believe it’s taken so long for us to see it in comics. With the collision of these two future-set groups of characters, though, Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #1 is an entertaining amount of set-up, but this is a mini-series that is clearly just getting started.

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Liberty Annual 2011

Edited by Bob Schreck and Greg Tumbarello
48 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

I’ve always been a big fan of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (which defends comic creators and retailers against freedom of speech lawsuits), so when they started producing a Liberty Annual every year, I was on board. It features a wide range of top-talent creators old and new, from Matt Wagner and Fred Hembeck to J.H. Williams III and Carla Speed McNeil. While a lot of anthologies for a charity are slightly cringe-inducing (a mixture of good and bad because everyone was let in because of the charity nature of the book), it’s nice to have a comic like Liberty Annual 2011 that you can recommend with a clear conscious because it’s good.

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Any Empire

By Nate Powell
304 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole in 2008 was a disturbing book in the best possible way, one that racked up its share of accolades (including an Eisner Award, two Ignatz Awards, and a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize). At long last, his major-length follow-up is here, Any Empire. And while in many regards it’s a quite-different book than Swallow Me Whole, it does share some slight similarities. Like its predecessor, Any Empire plunges the reader into the minds of three teenagers, and you might not like what you find there.

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Three #2

Written by Sina Evil, Jennifer Camper, Michael Fahy, Craig Bostick, and David Kelly
Art by Jon Macy, Jennifer Camper, Michael Fahy, Craig Bostick, and David Kelly
32 pages, color
Published by Rob Kirby Comics

One of my favorite anthologies from last year was Three #1, so having a second issue in 2011 was definitely reason to celebrate. After the first issue’s strong debut (and with Eric Orner’s "Weekends Abroad" garnering an Ignatz nomination as well as inclusion in Best American Comics 2011, as well as a second Ignatz nomination for the entire anthology), I’ll admit I was slightly worried that the second issue might not be able to keep up the high level of quality. What I got, though, was three new short stories that each provided something very different from one another, but all of which kept my attention from start to finish.

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52 Weeks Project

By Greg Ruth
120 pages, black and white
Published by Allen Spiegel Fine Arts

By now, you’ve probably heard of Kickstarter, a website that allows people to try and find funding for projects, and offer as incentive various premiums for different levels. (Often starting out with a copy of the project, and then going up in scale from there.) One Kickstarter project I did help fund earlier this year recently arrived at my door. And now that I’ve got it, well, here’s hoping that people who missed the Kickstarter train for Greg Ruth’s The 52 Weeks Project will eventually get another chance to buy this book.

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X 3-in-1 Vol. 1

By CLAMP
584 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

X is a strange little duck in the manga world, in terms of its publication history. Created by the four-person creative collective CLAMP, X began in Japan in 1992, but was halted in 2003 as it neared its conclusion due to concerns by the publisher over the "increasingly violent stories." Meanwhile, in North America, due to Dark Horse Comics’ series X, its publication by Viz ran under the name X/1999, referencing the pivotal year in which the series was set. It’s now 2011 and CLAMP hasn’t found a new publisher in Japan to run the final chapters of X, but the series is now coming back into print in North America in a series of 3-in-1 omnibuses, and under its original title of X. As the comic focuses around the apocalypse, saying "the end is near" is extremely appropriate no matter how you look at it. And based on what I found in X 3-in-1 Vol. 1? I am a little boggled at the idea how just how violent these later chapters must be.

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Stargazing Dog

By Takashi Murakami
128 pages, black and white
Published by NBM

Stargazing Dog is the kind of book that will either grab you instantly with its cover, or make you run screaming. For me, there’s something instantly attractive about an image of a cute dog in a field of sunflowers that made me want to read this comic that was a runaway success in its native Japan. What I found inside, though, was a strange duo of stories about the relationship between men and dogs. It’s bittersweet, but I appreciated that it didn’t take the easy way out.

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