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Skyman, Vol. 1: The Right Stuff

Joshua Hale Fialkov and Manuel Garcia. Dark Horse, $14.99 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-61655-439-2

The opening scene, where a former Skyman gets drunk and kills a bartender while spouting racist attacks on the president, suggests a new, modern kind of superhero comic, but the rest of this superhero revamp by Fialkov (The Bunker) follows a familiar pattern. The replacement Skyman, picked by the government, is an Air Force veteran who lost the use of his legs in a crash over Afghanistan. His white handler and trainer is resentful of losing his place in the program to a new black candidate, which has the potential to make for a fascinating take on the usual hero/sidekick relationship, but it all gets lost in standard bad-government conspiracy and exaggerated us vs. them battles. Instead of substantial characterization or exploration of how it would feel to put your life in the hands of a controller who hates what you stand for, there are plenty of fight and flight scenes and a guest appearance by Captain Midnight, another superhero from the past. Garcia’s (Bloodshot) art is similarly standard to the genre, with exciting action shots but a lack of detail in the quieter scenes. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Punks Git Cut

Jay Howell. Last Gasp, $25 (420p) ISBN 978-0-86719-806-5

Even though one of the opening statements in this enormous zine compilation is “This is the future the future of crap,” this is not a collection of work that should be dismissed so lightly. Drawn and assembled by the artist of the original character designs for the Fox animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers, Howell’s work is at times filthy, other times thoughtful, but always overflowing with creativity. He predicts that, in the future, everyone will wear rollerblades and trench coats, but fingerless gloves will be optional, and he notes that “$9 an hour is the most money I’ve made.” Howell seems firm throughout his work on never restricting himself or his ideas, devoting a whole issue of one zine to maggots and acquiring “maggot energy” after kicking a rat covered in maggots, and dealing with people who need ‘maggot therapy’ after encountering maggots. Other pages provide the necessary ingredients for building an escape vehicle, or just galleries of oddball drawings. The detail and subjects of his illustration range as widely as his words, such as casual sketches of weird-looking dudes, intricate drawings done on the title pages of aged paperbacks, and detailed drawings of abandoned houses. This book is weird and great. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Food Wars! Vol. 1

Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki. Viz, $9.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4215-7254-3

With the help of culinary consultant Yuki Morisaki, this first-time author/illustrator team brings back intense culinary competition unseen in manga since Yakitate!! Japan. Soma Yukihira enjoys youth and its promise as he works in his family’s humble neighborhood restaurant, dueling his father in original-dish competitions. When developers buy out the business, Soma’s father decides its time for Soma to live up to his potential as a chef.He shutters the restaurant and sends his son to the premier culinary high school in Japan. It turns out to be full of wacky people with skills as deep as their pockets. Forced to see there’s more to food than taste and cockiness, Soma meets a variety of people, mostly women, who bring out the best and worst in him as his creativity brings him through cooking challenges that hold his future in the balance. The cooking “battle” scenes are as energetic as anything in superhero comics, and the food is drawn to look mouthwatering and refined. Orgasmic tasting scenes up the recommended age bracket beyond YA , and the recipes between chapters are temptations in themselves. Shonen competition manga at its best, this is a breath of fresh air against seasons of lackluster shonen manga, and should be a breakout hit. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories

MariNaomi. Uncivilized Books/2D Comics, $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-941250-01-3

Award-winning author MariNaomi (Kiss and Tell) returns with this charming and intimate collection of vignettes and meatier personal histories. Most of the pieces appeared on TheRumpus.net and detail the author’s adventures through various life stages from childhood to the present day. The mixed-bag effect of a whole life jumbled together lets the reader get to know the author much faster than in a traditional narrative. Though she was a high school dropout and a teenage runaway, and suffered through explosive relationships and crushing disappointments, she never once falls into self-deprecation. One story shows the depressing transformation of a childhood bully, while quietly backgrounding MariNaomi’s equally dispiriting transformation from a wild, fierce youth to a tamped-down bank teller. “The Rebound” traces a relationship as her boyfriend moves from relentless stalker to jealous baby. Though her art technique varies throughout the book, the best are stark black-and-white images often surrounded by a hefty amount of ominous white space, accurately reflecting the themes of isolation, confusion, and personal difficulty the author has slogged through. The book is utterly absorbing, funny, intimate, and even philosophical. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Megahex

Simon Hanselmann. Fantagraphics, $29.99 (200p) ISBN 978-1-60699-743-7

The cast of this webcomic, now lovingly anthologized, is made up of those acquaintances from high school who never moved away—the ones you hope you don’t run into at the 7-Eleven when you go home for Thanksgiving. Or the freshman year college roommate for whom the phrase “wake and bake” is more than a silly rhyme, it’s a lifestyle choice. There are a few differences, of course—namely, the fact that the trio at the heart of these episodes are a witch, a black cat, and an anthropomorphic owl. They get high, sleep in, fool around with one another, and generally do terrible things to themselves and others. As the stories unfold like a stoner fantasy version of a sitcom, the trio flail and struggle with depression and begin to grow all too human. In his debut graphic novel, Tasmanian Hanselmann draws gridlike pages filled with simple flat shapes, given emphasis by a dulled palette of watercolors. The story is depressing as often as it is funny, a cautionary tale that’s at its best when Hanselmann spreads his writing wings, extending beyond a gag strip into an honest exploration of his deeply flawed leads. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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