This was a tiny week for me, which means digging a little deeper into the pile to get my picks. (Unlike next week, where I have a ton of my perennial favorites to pick from.) But that doesn’t mean we don’t have some gems still – two of my favorite artists, and a new series that’s hitting very different notes!
47 Ronin #5
Awesome artist #1 is Stan Sakai. He’s known primarily for drawing anthropomorphic Samurai in the incredibly good Usagi Yojimbo series, but he’s taken a brief break from that to draw non-anthropomorphic (ie, human) Samurai! He has a very clean style, and is excellent at drawing this kind of action, so it truly works out for the best.
Mike Richardson also does a fine job translating this classic tale to comic form, condensing it to a nice pacing, but still preserving the soul of the work in a way that’s comprehensible to english-speaking audiences. And it’s easy to see why this is such an important tale in Japanese culture, as it packs an emotional punch.
At its heart, this is a story about honor and sacrifice. What lengths must one go to, in order to remain true to a code? What consequences await one who takes the difficult path, and how does one present himself as he meets his fate? If one knows anything about Japanese Bushido culture, not much in the story is much of a surprise, but that’s because this is the source of the wellspring that masters like Kurosawa learned from.
Highly recommended. It should be out in trade paperback soon, and is a good pick for any Japanophile or fan of Kurosawa movies.
The Emerald City of Oz #1
Marvel continues their adaptations of the Oz books. I’ve read a few of them, and honestly I’m not their biggest proponent. They read like Young Adult books from a time before the genre got its swagger, and learned to trust its audience to pick up on nuance. But, despite these reservations, I’m really enjoying the comic adaptations, and for one reason: Skottie Young.
Young is the artist, and has an amazingly unique style, as you can get a glimpse of from that cover. It’s quite colorful and whimsical, somewhat reminiscent of something like Seuss. And it turns out, this is exactly what the rather obvious and broad fantasy world of Oz needs to make it compelling.
And as much as I’ve not been thrilled with the source material so far, this volume has a far more compelling story than any to date. The Nome King, defeated in an earlier volume, wants his magic belt back that Dorothy took from him, and is building up alliances with some of the other less savory characters in the fairy world they inhabit, with the intent of conquering Oz and overthrowing Dorothy and Ozma. Meanwhile, faced with real world problems in the real world (which is kind of a shock, honestly), Dorothy brings her uncle Henry and auntie Em to Oz to stay in the palace. Just in time for a war, it looks like!
This could be the best volume yet. And if you actually like the original stories, I can only imagine how much you’ll love this wonderful interpretation of them!
The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1
This is focusing on the current iteration of the Sinister Six, a classic team-up group of Spider-Man’s villains. Sharp-eyed readers will note there’s only five figures on the cover, and indeed they mention that they’re short a member. This current issue focuses on Boomerang, a rather one-note character who, well, throws explosive boomerangs to commit crimes, and regularly gets beat up by Spider-Man.
They spend some time fleshing out his character, and on slice of life issues like getting his lowlife friends to feed his pet birds. For characters that the audience isn’t going to instantly relate to, this is really important. If they keep spending this amount of time building up backstory and personality, this could be a really good title.
And it’s also a heist book. Boomerang’s putting the team back together for a reason, and there’s the requisite twist at the end of the book to show that there’s more going on here than is instantly apparent.
It’s an intriguing title, and this is where it starts! I want to see where they’re going. It could be a real diamond in the rough, here!