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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A Zoo in Winter

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

I appreciate talented creators who have a wide range of styles, and Jiro Taniguchi definitely falls into that category. From the nail-biting tense mystery of Summit of the Gods, to the quiet and contemplative Walking Man, each new Taniguchi project is slightly different than the previous. A Zoo in Winter is his latest book to be translated into English, and it’s a loosely autobiographical book about Taniguchi’s early life and how he became a manga artist. It’s more A Drifting Life than Bakuman, and it makes me already hoping for a sequel.

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Sailor Moon Vol. 1

By Naoko Takeuchi
240 pages, black and white
Published by Kodansha Comics

Sailor Moon (or rather, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon as the cover states) is one of those comics that up until now, I knew a lot about but had never actually read. When both the manga and the anime were translated to English and brought to North America in the ’90s, saying it was a hit was an understatement. It’s probably safe to say that the amazing success of Sailor Moon is what helped position TokyoPop (then Mixx Entertainment) into a position of publishing strength for most of the last decade. And of course, I knew that Sailor Moon‘s target audience was teenage girls, something I’ve never had a problem reading in the past. But actually reading Sailor Moon? I must admit that this was not at all what I expected.

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Wandering Son Vol. 1

By Shimura Takako
208 pages, black and white
Published by Fantagraphics

If you’d told me a decade ago that Fantagraphics would be hand selecting manga to publish in North America, I’d have laughed at you. But as more publishers dip into the wide spectrum of comics published in Japan, it’s a delight to see Fantagraphics bringing over books like Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, and now Shimura Takako’s series Wandering Son. Because as much as I enjoyed A Drunken Dream, it’s this gentle, inviting series about two transgendered elementary school students that has truly captured my attention.

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Cross Game Vol. 3

By Mitsuru Adachi
376 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

I’m normally not into reviewing a series again right after tackling the previous release. So after reviewing Cross Game Vol. 1-2, I figured it would be safe to wait a few volumes before bringing it back up. But by the time I was done with Cross Game Vol. 3, I was so struck by the direction of the series that I found that I couldn’t wait any longer. In short, I feel like Mitsuru Adachi gets just as frustrated at other long-form series as I do, and took steps here to show that he’s not going to fall into that same trap.

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Bunny Drop Vol. 3

By Yumi Unita
224 pages, black and white
Published by Yen Press

It’s always sad to see a book store closing, but sometimes it ends up steering me toward books I might not have otherwise read. For example, I’d heard good things about Yumi Unita’s Bunny Drop, but with so many other series fighting for my money, hadn’t gotten around to reading it. Then a store going out of business had the first two offered at 50% off, and the next thing I knew? Well, not only had I bought and read them, but I just bought and read the recently-released third volume at my regular store. For a book with such a relatively simple concept, it’s a surprisingly rich book.

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March Story Vol. 2

Written by Hyung-min Kim
Art by Kyung-il Yang
192 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

A lot of people have become a bit obsessed with starting at the beginning of a series, or nowhere else at all. It’s not exclusive to comics, either; the number of people who won’t jump on board to a television series without seeing all the previous episodes is a prime example. But lately, I’ve found myself increasingly curious on seeing how well a series holds up if you don’t begin with the first volume. So when I came upon the second volume of March Story, I decided to give it a whirl even though I’ve never read the first book. Quite frankly, I’m glad that I did.

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Yotsuba&! Vol. 9

By Kiyohiko Azuma
208 pages, black and white
Published by Yen Press

There are a small handful of comics that when it comes to reading, I stall. New volumes don’t show up on a regular basis, and I know that as soon as I’m done with it, the wait for the next volume is painful. That’s why I’ve sat on Yotsuba&! Vol. 9 for three months; not because I had better things to read, but rather because I knew that I didn’t have anything else that would even remotely compare. For a series with such a relatively simple concept, it’s shocking how I’ve yet to find a book which replicates everything that’s wonderful about Yotsuba&!.

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Rin-ne Vol. 5

By Rumiko Takahashi
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

I’ve been having fun reading brand-new chapters of Rumiko Takahashi’s series Rin-ne on the Shonen Sunday website each week; for those who like something a little more permanent, though, the book is also being published in a series of collections. (Doubly so since once the collections are released, the individual chapters come off of the official site.) Picking up the latest volume, it strikes me that while I’m enjoying the series overall, in some ways this feels like a slight step backwards for Takahashi.

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