Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What I've Been Reading - Neozoic, Dead@17, Kimi Ni Todoke & More

Welcome to another edition of What I've Been Reading. Today, I'll be discussing some manga that I picked up at the library recently, including Wolverine: Prodigal Son and a new series from Viz, Kimi Ni Todoke. I also take a look at some comics that have been sitting on my self begging to be reread, including Neozoic and Dead@17. Hit the jump to see what I thought of these and more.

Written by Antony Johnson
Art by Wilson Tortosa

Otherwise known as the adventures of teen Wolverine! All joking aside, this wasn't half bad. Johnson does a good job of keeping Logan's core character mostly intact while transferring him to a new setting. Basically, he was found unconscious at a boarding school/dojo and was taken in. Eventually, he's tracked down by this story's version of Weapon X, though it's never named and they have no other motivation other than wanting Wolverine.

Logan is a pretty decent character though he's definitely a younger, more brash version of the original, but he still feels like Wolverine, for the most part. There are never really any big changes to the basic character, but I'm not sure Wolverine purists would be happy with the character either.

The story is mostly stock Wolverine stuff as well with some coming of age stuff and a tiny, tiny bit of teen-esque drama thrown in. There is plenty of action as well and the story is compelling enough to be interesting though it's obviously not the greatest thing you are ever going to read. Overall, a solid effort that is probably better than would normally be expected of something like this.

Written by Paul Ens
Art by J. Korim
Collects Neozoic #1-8

Dinosaurs are awesome. It's a scientific fact which should mean that Neozoic is also awesome, which it is. In fact, this is one of the more refreshing comics I've read all year. Neozoic is just a fun book that I got a lot of enjoyment from. There is nothing overly inventive about it, but the quality is pretty good and it's just a fantasy book that's out to tell a good story and have some fun while doing so which is something I think a lot of comics don't do enough of these days as they are either trying too hard to be "important" and can't be bothered to try and just tell a story or, on the other end, just can't even tell a competent story and sometimes don't even try to.

A lot of the series is pretty good but nothing new. Solid, if unoriginal, characters and an enjoyable, if cliched, plot are more than made up for by the energy the book has as well as the enjoyable fantasy setting . Ens does a lot of fantastic world building, which does stand out among all of the other stuff, and Korim's art is a perfect match for the material, too. Even the colouring stands out. The only thing that really annoyed me about the book was the horrible motivation for the main villain, but it doesn't really ruin the story in anyway. If you are looking for something that's fun, enjoyable and has a great concept, then you should definitely give Neozoic a try.

Also, incredibly nitpicking complaint that only I care about! At the beginning of the first issue, and only for the first three pages, there is a sequence that includes a space battle among aliens that diverts an asteroid off of it's course by a tiny fraction. That asteroid is also the one that killed the dinosaurs, so Neozoic takes place on an alternate Earth. In fact, the top of the fourth page says "Sixty Five Million Years Later." I'm sorry, but evolution doesn't work that way, it just doesn't. In fact, it adds nothing to the story other than really bad science, so why waste three pages on it? Anyway, this is just really stupid nitpicking that in no way detracts from the story at all, aside from the three wasted pages, but it just really annoyed me.

Written by Hiro Mashima
Art by Hiro Mashima

If the cover art looks familiar to you, it's because Mashima also created Rave Master, which is a fairly popular series. I've never read it, but I've watched some of the anime on Cartoon Network way back when but don't really remember much of it other than that it was crazy in that 'nothing is too crazy' kind of way and I heard some things about this series so I decided to give it a look.

It's a fantasy mishmash story about wizards but includes things like trains, yachts and magazines. The series stars teenage wizard Lucy who wants to get into Fairy Tail, a wizard guild, which is mostly made up of misfits/the cool kids who also have hearts of gold, for the most part. I find that slightly annoying since it's trying to have it both ways, but it's nothing more than annoying at this point.

Anyway, the story is about how Lucy meets Natsu, a member of Fairy Tail, and, after helping him out, joins the Guild. I enjoyed this for the most part, minor complaints about the Guild aside. It was a lot of fun with plenty of action, enjoyable characters and some humor as well. The art is also pretty good as well. Mashima goes a little too far with some of the exaggerations for my tastes at times but it's never anything that is more than slightly annoying. Otherwise, the art is pretty engaging and Mashima handles the action scenes pretty well while managing to give the overall look a distinctive feel. I'll definitely give the second volume a look.

Written by Josh Howard
Art by Josh Howard
Collects Dead@17 #1-4, Dead@17: Blood of the Saints #1-4, Dead@17: Revolution #1-4 and Dead@17: The 13th Brother #1-6

I've actually been meaning to give this a review for a while now, so, every now and then, I get it out and read it and, although Dead@17 is a readable series, I am not quite sure what to make of it. Some of it's good and some of it's bad while some of it's just downright strange, and not always in a good way. If I had to describe the series in one word it would be average. Nothing in it is truly bad but nothing stunningly good either even though there are better and worse parts of the collection.

Normally, I never really bother reading the back cover for trades, but, looking for some inspiration, I checked out the back cover of this collection and saw some of the review snippets on the back and wondered what story they were talking about. One of them said that Howard should be consider one of the top names in the industry, which baffled me. Yeah, Howard does have potential, more so with his art than writing, more on that later, but he's by no means a top creator in the comics industry.

Anyway, most of Dead@17 is pretty basic. The characterization, character development, the plot and storytelling all tend to fall flat for most of the collection. It kind of feels like Howard is trying to make all of this seem important but can't pull it off. This also causes a lot of the scenes to be a little awkward since all of the emotional aspects don't work so you have characters that are supposed to be in an emotional situation coming off as disinterested. It makes for some really weird reading.

The one bit of his writing that I did like was his mythology building, which he does pretty good job with, but he attaches it to Christianity's mythology for no apparent reason other than to do a poor job of using Revelations to add some symbolism to his story. Well, I guess he could have really wanted to have Jesus make that one page cameo. Okay, that's was a little snarky but it's something that really annoyed me with the series. I had the same problem with Kingdom Come. Yes, there is a lot of great symbolism in Christianity and the Bible, and most religions in general, but when it's used badly, it just weighs everything else down. Even more so with Dead@17 since Howard did some mythology building of his own.

As for the art, it's pretty good but can be awkward at times, which mostly has to do the cheesecake that tends to show up throughout the collection. As said before, the art is definitely a step above the writing and is pretty enjoyable on it's own, awkward cheesecake stuff aside.

The collection is probably best viewed as the early work of a creator with potential. Someone could probably talk me into giving this a Check It rating, but I still wouldn't recommend spending money on this as it's definitely something that's better gotten from the library given the high price and average quality.

Written by Minoru Toyoda
Art by Minoru Toyoda

Normally, I don't really go for romantic comedies, just not my thing, but the cover caught my eye when I was at the library, so I decided to give it a look and ended up enjoying this. There is definitely more of a focus on the comedy than the romance, but both are there in decent amounts and Toyoda goes a good job of working back and forth between the two, usually using one to lead to the other.

It also seemed kind of quirky to me, which I think is partially due to the art, which has a simple aesthetic that manages to get a lot of details across. The humour isn't really laugh out loud funny either, but still very enjoyable. The characters, both main and supporting, are fun, there is a nice diversity among them and they work well as a group with some interesting dynamics. All in all, I had fun with this and will definitely get the entire series, which is only five volumes long, at some point.

Written by Joe Hill
Art by Gabriel Rodriguez
Collects Locke & Key #1-6

I was expecting more from a comic that has Eisner Award seal stamped on cover. Granted, it's only a nomination and this isn't a bad comic, but I wasn't that impressed with it either. I guess my biggest problem with the series is that is seems like set for all of the subsequent minis that are going to be released. Yes, the collection does tell a complete story but I still can't shake that incomplete feeling.

The biggest reason why I get this is because that's how the story basically ends - introducing plot elements that are setting up further stories. Another reason is that the main plot felt kind of weak to me and I didn't really get into the story. There are also a lot of interesting concepts, or concepts that could be interesting when they are further fleshed out, but, again, that's the next volume.

Hill does some wonderful character work which helps to make up for the weak story but not enough to really impress me. That said, if I do try out the second volume, it will be because I enjoyed the characters. The art by Rodriguez is pretty good as well and I can see him becoming a higher profile artist as time goes on. Overall, Locke & Key is a solid mini that felt a little hollow.

Written by Karuho Shiina
Art by Karuho Shiina

I can't decide whether or not I like this. Well, actually, I do like it. I can't decide how much I like. One the one hand, it is a very endearing story, but, on the other, it gets repetitive pretty quickly.

The story is about a high school student named Sawako Kuronuma. who looks like Sadako, from The Ring movies, yet she is a really nice person. Of course, she doesn't really have any friends and her classmates think she can do things like curse them and what not. She eventually does making friends and such which is the endearing part of the story.

The repetitive part is, well, that's all that really happens. Similar situations repeated over and over. It works for about the first half of the volume but starts to grate by the second half and slowly gets worse as it goes on. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I can't see myself enjoying further volumes unless the basic formula changes.

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Bill said...

I picked up Neozoic cause that first cover looked quite badass. The series was a little disappointing, it basically ran on the strength of "dinosaurs are cool, and so are swords," but those two things are true, after all, so it wasn't a bad read.

Anonymous said...

fairy tail kind of looks like One Piece

Flip The Page said...

Eiichiro Oda (one piece) and Hiro Mashima (Fairy Tail, Rave Master) may have actually worked together as assisstants or Mashima as an assisstant on One Piece. to be honest that's how most similar art styles come about.

Anonymous said...

I can't get away with most Shoujou or romantic manga. Feathery screen tone effects on every panel and big lips on the characters are ridculous and distracting.

However a manga that has romance in it, but avoids all/alot of the Shojou cliches is Bitter Virgin. I actualy think it's classed as Seinen, but whatever. Anyway that is one of the most heartbreaking and at the same time sweet things I've read.

I'd say it's far from brilliant but some of the stuff you've been reading I've had a flick through of my girlfirends copies, and there pretty medicore.

It's nice for a change and I think the writers are really good at getting you connected to the chracters from the get go, but for me there's just not enought variety. Even the cliches of Shounen manga pale by comparisson to some of the one note repititon in the Shojou stuff.


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