xxxHolic Vol. 16

By CLAMP
192 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

What do you do when your comic book series is past its expiration date but you want it to move on anyway? That’s a dilemma that the manga collective CLAMP had to deal with when it came to xxxHolic, a series about a mysterious shop that granted wishes that was also designed to run parallel to their other title Tsubasa. With the end of Tsubasa (the last volume of which hit bookstores this month), that should have been the end of xxxHolic too. Except it hasn’t, perhaps because CLAMP had become too fond of it, or perhaps simply because they had too good an idea to let it go. And the end result? It’s one of the stranger volumes of the series to date.

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Based on the novel by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Script adapted by Tony Lee
Art by Cliff Richards
176 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a really funny idea, when you think about it; add a zombie invasion into the pages of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice, but otherwise let the book generally play out as it did in its original form. There’s just one big problem with Seth Grahame-Smith’s transformation of Pride and Prejudice, though. This is a joke that cannot sustain itself for an entire novel. As the book moves forward, it starts to drag and the jokes grow increasingly tiresome and old. But with all that in mind, I was actually looking forward to the graphic novel adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, because it would almost certainly be shorter, and that meant that it might not wear out its welcome the way that the novel does.

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Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade: The 11½ Anniversary Edition

By Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik
176 pages, color
Published by Del Rey Books

Penny Arcade is one of the harder-to-categorize web comics out there. It’s a comic that at a glance appears to be about video games, but can just as easily zoom off on tangents about other real world situations. It’s not a continuing strip, except when it is. Sometimes it shifts into a series of stories about characters that started as a one-off joke. It’s also becoming an empire run by its two creators, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, which includes charity drives, gaming conventions, and their own video games. It’s with all that in mind, though, that The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade: The 11½ Anniversary Edition makes perfect sense, a combination of "best-of" and "behind the scenes" books rolled into one.

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Talisman: The Road of Trials #1-3

Original novel by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Adapted by Robin Furth
Art by Tony Shasteen
32 pages, color
Published by Del Rey Comics

I remember reading The Talisman back in the ’80s. One (or both) of my parents had read the book, and the hardcover sat on the entertainment center bookshelves in our family room. A good friend of mine in high school was a rabid Stephen King fan, and since we had a copy of King and Peter Straub’s novel in the house, I thought it was as good a book as any to start with. Because it’s been over 20 years since I’ve read the book, some of my memories are a little hazy, but I do recall liking the book. I’m also pretty sure that my memories of the book are still strong enough that I can safely say that the original novel was not quite as disjointed as this comic adaptation is shaping up to be.

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Moyasimon Vol. 1: Tales of Agriculture

By Masayuki Ishikawa
240 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

I love when publishers take a chance on slightly strange and out-there books, and I think that’s a category that Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture certainly falls into. After all, books and comics about brand-new university students are a dime a dozen, no need to do more than bat an eye over them. On the other hand, take that idea and then add in the extra twist of the protagonist being able to see microscopic germs as cute little animated beings that talk to one another? Well, now we’re going somewhere sufficiently odd.

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X-Men: Misfits Vol. 1

Written by Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman
Drawn by Anzu
192 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

X-Men: Misfits is the second of two manga-influenced comics from Del Rey that feature characters licensed from Marvel. The first, Wolverine: Prodigal Son felt squarely aimed at boys and influenced by shonen comics, with Wolverine going through tests of skill and becoming a master of martial arts even while he’s unable to fight the battles of friendship. X-Men: Misfits, then, is more of a shojo comic and aiming towards female readers. With Kitty Pryde being the only female student at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, she’s the belle of the ball even while she is torn between two different camps of boys. Sounds an awful lot like all sorts of shojo comics out there to me.

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Yokai Doctor Vol. 1

By Yuki Sato
224 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

I think Del Rey is trying to corner the market on books starring yokai (Japanese spirits) in English. Late last year they released Yokaiden, and now they’re translating Yuki Sato’s Yokai Doctor. Yokai Doctor is definitely a step in the right direction for books with yokai in them, but even then it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’re seeing a little too much sameness between Yokai Doctor and a lot of other releases.

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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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Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Vol. 1

By Koji Kumeta
192 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

There are always times when I really wonder just how much I’m "missing" when reading a translation of a comic into English. Just reading comics that started out in English, it’s easy to see cultural references left and right, ones that even readers from its place of origin might not initially get. So when you’re reading a comic from, say, France or Japan, the chances of missing those cultural references are much higher. That’s something that finally really came home while reading Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Vol. 1; the translator does the best job she can, and there are lots of footnotes at the end of the book, but it’s almost shocking just how much is going to fly over most people’s heads.

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Tsubasa Vol. 20

By CLAMP
192 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey Manga

I will admit that for the past few volumes of Tsubasa, I’ve been less than thrilled with CLAMP’s dimension-hopping series. I’d always liked the original conceit of the book—traveling across the universes to reclaim the scattered fragments of Princess Sakura’s soul—and CLAMP has certainly proven that they’re not afraid to mix things up a great deal. Any book which thousands of pages in suddenly reveals the main character to be a traitorous clone of the real, imprisoned hero automatically gets a second look, after all. But with the latest volume of Tsubasa, things seem finally back on track, in no small part by tackling what I’d always thought was an odd omission: the history and back story of the supporting cast characters.

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