Monday, January 20, 2020

DRAGON BALL SUPER VOLUME 1

Story by: Akira Toriyama | Art by: Toyotarou

The original DRAGON BALL manga (and the DRAGON BALL Z TV series which adapted it) ended with the series' main character, Goku, defeating the evil Majin Boo* and bringing peace to the universe. There was also a brief coda following this battle, set ten years later, to wrap everything up. DRAGON BALL SUPER is set between Boo's defeat and the "ten years later" sequence, following the adventures of Goku and his friends in that timeframe.

The SUPER manga begins with an adaptation of the 2013 BATTLE OF GODS movie. Goku's existence comes to the attention of a deity named Beerus, the God of Destruction. Beerus comes to Earth to challenge Goku to a fight, in hopes that the hero will transform into the legendary "Super Saiyan God".

(By the way, I'm sort of assuming that you know what a Saiyan is. I'm writing this with the idea that the reader is familiar with at least the basics of the DRAGON BALL saga. It's hard to go in cold reviewing the new installments of a thirty-plus year-old property without having written about any of the material that came before!)

So Beerus and Goku fight and, sure enough, Goku achieves the Super Saiyan God form. Beerus thanks Goku for a good fight, then departs -- but not before informing Goku that the universe in which he lives is actually part of a multiverse comprised of a dozen near-identical universes, each with its own great warriors (Goku's universe, for the record, is Universe 7).

Monday, January 13, 2020

JACO THE GALACTIC PATROLMAN

Story ant Art: Akira Toriyama

It's been around seven years since JACO was published (the timeframe of its release included the build-up to, and release of, BATTLE OF GODS in Japanese theaters), so I don't recall if it was touted up front as a DRAGON BALL prequel -- but it becomes evident almost immediately in chapter one that that's exactly what it is. But at the same time, it's its own thing and pretty funny too, in its own right.

The story begins with our hero, a goofy space cop named Jaco, crash-landing on a small nearly-deserted island on Earth. The island's only inhabitant is an old man named Omori, who lives as a hermit following the death of his wife years earlier. Jaco reveals that he came to Earth to intercept a being currently en route from a planet of savage warriors. This, combined with glimpses of domelike architecture common in DRAGON BALL, are our first clues that the manga is set in the DB universe, and likely a prequel.

If only to get rid of Jaco, Omari -- a one-time research scientist who was originally on the island to work on a time machine -- begins repairing the patrolman's spaceship. Government operatives soon appear, ordering Omori to leave the island, and soon after, Omori realizes that he needs a rare and valuable element called "sky gold" in order to get it running. Realizing he may be stuck with Jaco for a while, Omori takes his guest to the mainland for some grocery shopping. There, Jaco stops some crimes and becomes wanted by the police. The unlikely duo meets a girl named Tights, who helps them escape the cops and returns to the island with them.

Monday, January 6, 2020

DRAGON BALL SUPER

(And a couple related items.)

The beginning of the year is manga time around here, and in 2020 I've decided to look at the latest iteration of a series that's near and dear to me: DRAGON BALL. I think I got into DRAGON BALL Z somewhere around early college, when it aired weekday afternoons on Cartoon Network's Toonami programming block. Not too long after that, I started reading the manga upon which the series was based -- first "scanlations" found online, and later official releases from Viz. It was in the manga format that I fell in love with the original DRAGON BALL, which followed the main characters as kids and teenagers, and I still prefer that iteration to this day over "Z".

But right now, we aren't talking about the original series or its anime adaptation. Because in recent years, after a couple decades of very little new material, there's been a DRAGON BALL resurgence in Japan, with tons of new content which has naturally found its way to America as well. It started in 2013 with a theatrical film called BATTLE OF GODS, which was followed in 2015 by a sequel, RESURRECTION "F". also in 2015, a new TV series debuted: DRAGON BALL SUPER -- and its earliest storylines adapted the two films into a serialized format before moving along into new material.

Alongside SUPER, a new DRAGON BALL manga series with the same title premiered... and that, dear reader, is what we'll be looking at here over the next few weeks. The SUPER manga follows the same general plot as the show, but with some tweaks here and there. It's written by the series' creator, Akira Toriyama, with artwork from Toyotarou. (The TV show also follows a general outline from Toriyama, though I understand the two series have diverged here and there in certain ways, and the manga has now passed the anime to move into original territory.)

But! Before we jump into DB SUPER, we're going to make one quick detour to check out a manga Toriyama wrote and drew in 2013, JACO THE GALACTIC PATROLMAN. I'm not sure anyone expected it at the time, but the series' title character would become a recurring presence in SUPER, so that seems like a good place to kick things off.

So -- one week from today. DRAGON BALL. Be there.

Monday, December 30, 2019

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

(A couple days early...)

It's time again -- already -- for that annual tradition where I put up a combination "Year in Review"/"Looking to the Future" post. And this year, there's not all that much to review. I had started off with some pretty high hopes, but it became evident very early on that I just wasn't meeting my posting deadlines like I used to. I began my Mondays this year by finishing off the DC post-CRISIS Superman and Wonder Woman runs that had filled all of 2018. Then, immediately after, I stayed in the DC Universe for Batman in the Seventies, which filled up Mondays for the remainder of the year (ending just last week).

But it was the Friday posts, the "grab bag" sort of stuff that I do to supplement the usually much longer Monday series, where I fell short. I began the year as always, with a manga series -- in this case, GUNSMITH CATS: BURST, the sequel to GUNSMITH CATS, which I had looked at in early 2018. After that I jumped into the world of European comics with RAPTORS, and then it was a mixed bag of Marvel stuff with CAPTAIN AMERICA: SENTINEL OF LIBERTY, SPIDER-MAN: LIFELINE, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE 1940s NEWSPAPER STRIP, and X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN vol. 1 and vol. 2.

And then -- things fell apart. I announced I was taking a brief hiatus, which I called my "Spring Break", with the intention to return on Fridays over the summer. That never happened. Come August, I came clean and stated that I had nothing in the pipeline for the fall, either. Life and other hobbies had eaten into my blogging time to a considerable extent, and while I was able to keep up with my Monday posts, that was the best I could manage.

Which brings us to today. Monday posts will continue as usual, but for now, Fridays will remain the empty void they have become over the past several months, aside from things like announcements, The Unboxing, or whatever else may pop into my mind. This is a little frustrating for me because Fridays used to be my way to read and post about other smaller things when I was in the middle of doing longer runs on Mondays. However at this this point, I'm thinking that what I may do is alternate -- start into a long run, but break periodically for something else before getting back to it.

At any rate, I intend to begin the year with a manga series, as has become tradition, and then I'm going to go into some European comics after that, around the beginning of March. Following those, I will jump into my next long-term Monday series, and we'll see how far it takes us. So -- one week from today comes our first announcement of the year (the manga series), and then the following Monday, we'll dive right into the first volume. I may have drastically cut down on my output, but I don't intend to go away anytime soon... so thanks, as always, for sticking around and continuing to follow along with whatever random stuff I happen to read.

Friday, December 27, 2019

THE UNBOXING - DECEMBER 2019

No physical books this month, but thanks to Marvel, it was a very merry digital Christmas! Amazon/Comixology ran one of the best sales they've ever done on Epic Collections, reducing all of them, across the board (except for the STAR WARS ones) to a flat $4.99 or $5.99 apiece. Considering that Epics are usually discounted to $6.99 or $7.99, this is a pretty big deal!

Thanks to the big Epic Collection sale, I plugged some gaps on the shopping list, and picked up: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EPIC COLLECTION: GHOSTS OF THE PAST, AVENGERS EPIC COLLECTION: THE GATHERERS STRIKE!, FANTASTIC FOUR EPIC COLLECTION: THE COMING OF GALACTUS, FANTASTIC FOUR EPIC COLLECTION: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLACK PANTHER, and NEW MUTANTS EPIC COLLECTION: THE DEMON BEAR SAGA.

But that's not all! Marvel also ran a "Celebrate 2019" sale, which while not as deeply discounted as the Epic sale, still presented some great deals -- including on stuff that was just released, which is a rarity for these sorts of sales. So in addition to the digital volumes listed above, I also picked up: FANTASTIC FOUR MASTERWORKS vol. 21, NOT BRAND ECHH: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION, PETER PORKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-HAM: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION, SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN: LO, THIS MONSTER, TIGRA: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION, X-MEN CLASSIC: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION vol. 2, and X-MEN: SHATTERSHOT.

And guess what, True Believers? The sales are still on! They both run until January 2nd, so grab those Amazon gift cards you just unwrapped a couple days ago and hop over there to grab some books. I know I will (again).

EDIT: Turns out I had already written a post for the December Unboxing before I composed the above, and I just now discovered it in mid-January in my "Drafts" folder. I actually grabbed more than I realized in late November/December! So here's the rest of the haul (also all digital):

Then, from DC, it's AQUAMAN: THE SEARCH FOR MERA, TALES OF THE BATMAN: GERRY CONWAY vol. 3, and WONDER WOMAN by JOHN BYRNE vol. 3. Both of those last two books conclude their respective runs, which is nice to see. Hopefully there's a TALES OF THE BATMAN: DOUG MOENCH series in the wings, to pick up where Conway's run ended and finish off the pre-CRISIS Batman era -- but time will tell.

From IDW, I grabbed STAR TREK VS. TRANSFORMERS, and from Dynamite I picked up BARBARELLA/DEJAH THORIS.

Lastly, I got some European comics from two publishers that translate them to English: from Cinebook we have five volumes of a series called LADY S: Vol. 1: HERE'S TO SUZIE, Vol. 2: LATITUDE 59 DEGREES NORTH, Vol. 3: GAME OF FOOLS, Vol. 4: A MOLE IN DC, and Vol. 5: PORTUGUESE MEDLEY. And from Soleil it's the eighth volume of a series called EKHÖ, which I've been picking up here and there over the past couple years, but haven't yet read at all.

And with that, we close the curtain on December's Unboxing and the full year's worth of 2019 Unboxings. Owing to my decision last year to scale back on physical books in favor of digital, this year featured the fewest Unboxings since I began the blog: only seven throughout the year. But the flipside of that fact is that I think I'm actually buying more books than ever before since digital, when on sale, is drastically less expensive than physical!

Monday, December 23, 2019

DETECTIVE COMICS #426, #429, & #435

"KILLER'S ROULETTE!" | "MAN-BAT OVER VEGAS!"
"MASTER CRIME-FILE OF JASON BARD: CASE OF THE DEAD-ON TARGET!"
Story & Art by: Frank Robbins

And now the actual, honest-to-goodness conclusion to my look at "Batman in the Seventies", featuring Frank Robbins' final three stories as writer/artist. The first of these is by far my favorite: "Killer's Roulette" sees Batman investigating a string of suicides. Three of Gotham's wealthy citizens have killed themselves with a bullet to the head, and the Caped Crusader wants to know why. Batman goes undercover as a high roller at an offshore casino, where he meets a man named Conway Treach, who challenges him to the biggest game of chance anyone can ever play: Russian Roulette.

Batman and Treach head to Treach's cabin, where the villain explains the rules of his challenge: they will each write out a suicide note, then begin their game with a single bullet in Treach's revolver. After each pull of the trigger, one bullet will be added, until one of them dies -- at which point the survivor will take his own note and depart. At this point Batman reveals his true identity to Treach, but insists on playing the game anyway, and this is where Robbins' already excellent artwork becomes brilliant, as he captures the intensity on each man's face with every pull of the trigger, until Batman finally emerges victorious, deducing that Treach has a truck gun which will never kill him.

Even though this story's subject matter would never have cleared broadcast censors for a kids' show in 1992 (or today), I can't help feeling it would have been a really great adaptation into an episode of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. I can't really explain why, but something about it just feels like a B:TAS story.

Monday, December 16, 2019

DETECTIVE COMICS #416, #420, & #421

Surprise! Oh man, you should see the look on your face! We're not quite done with "Batman in the Seventies" after all. See, about seven months ago, in my look at DETECTIVE COMICS #429, I said:
"I should note that if I could, I'd look at all of the half-dozen or so Batman stories [Frank] Robbins drew, but over all these years, so far as I can see, DC has only ever collected "Man-Bat Over Vegas", which was in THE GREATEST BATMAN STORIES EVER TOLD. Anyone else up for a TALES OF THE BATMAN: FRANK ROBBINS book??"
Well, DC hasn't published such a tome, but at some point after I typed those fateful words, they did release all six of writer/artist Robbins' Bat-stories to Comixology. I bought them in a DC sale a few months back, and I've been saving them for now. I simply wouldn't have felt this retrospective was complete if I didn't write about these tales, knowing they were out there. Plus, two posts to cover these issues will take us right up to the end of the year, so the timing works out perfectly.

So, without further ado...