Yeah, I’m gonna split this up into like three posts and present it all out of order. Here’s the mostly comics edition:
Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata – Death Note vol. 1
Yeah, everyone’s heard of this one, right? Bright young psychopath finds magical artifact that lets him kill anyone, decides to cleanse the world, then finds himself in a duel of wits with a nameless detective who may or may not be smarter than him but is certainly crafty as hell; meanwhile, the second-string grim reaper who “lost” the killer notebook eggs said young psychopath on.
I’m really enjoying this, and I think I’ll grab the rest from the library. The bargain one strikes, if one wants to run a story where nearly everyone in the world is a redshirt, is that the cat-and-mouse has to be legitimately fascinating, and so far this series looks startlingly able to cash that check.
Terry Pratchett – Witches Abroad
“Hey, do we already have this one?” I asked Schwern. He paused and blinked. “It’s 35¢. Who cares.” The Title Wave on 55% off day, everybody.
Anyway, this is an upper-mid-tier Discworld book, and that is about all needs saying about it, other than that it’s a witches book and I’ve been jonesing for some Granny Weatherwax.
I have this thought about how Weatherwax and Sam Vimes are the twin moral cores of Discworld and how it’s their integrity that lets them accomplish the impossible, but Vimes has tended to dominate lately because Pratchett has doubled down on the irreversible societal and technological changes in the latter-day books. And while Vimes’s morality is firm and unyielding on the street level, his inability to really process the big picture at speed means that he can be wielded as a tool by someone who wants to change the world and is clever enough to run him along a track where his interests don’t collide with their own. (Which is pretty much only Vetinari, on this planet. None of the various people who have been almost as smart as Vetinari have really understood how to completely suborn someone whose morality is the opposite of their own. Which is why Vetinari always wins.) Whereas Weatherwax can’t participate in that kind of book, both because she grasps the big picture with a sort of horrid fluency and thus just can’t be used like that, and also because she’s fundamentally opposed to title-case Changing the World, which is the purpose Vimes often seems to find himself being used for.
It’s not a very complete thought, though. Probably got some holes in it.
Yellow Tanabe – Kekkaishi vols. 30 and 31
Wow, Yoshimori’s mom is scary. She’s clearly modeled on Ranma’s mom, but takes the archetype in a bit of a different direction. That thing with the shikigami was a seriously cold move, though.
I’m not sure how I feel about the whole ethics question of sealing away REDACTED. He’s really creepy, though. “I know you like war, right?”
The shadow organization betrays a really grim view of what it means to be special-but-not-quite-special-enough. All the way from the rank and file up to the top.
Takeshi Konomi – Prince of Tennis, vol. 1
A perfectly well done genre-lockstep sports manga, which… come to think of it, I don’t know why I thought I might like this. I won’t read any more of it, but I choose to believe that the cast later has to play the Enfield Tennis Academy over the course of like twenty volumes and Michael Pemulis doses what’s-his-face with LSD, and that one girl accidentally watches five of James Orin Incandenza’s movies in the break room and gets scarred for life.
Emi Lenox – Emitown, vol. 1
Easy to read even in a scattered mental state. This is a good diary comic! By not aiming for a strip-worthy moment from each day, it avoids glibness; by summarizing liberally and generally avoiding capturing other peoples’ voices, it avoids a sense of story, which leaves it feeling more honest than many of its ilk. The anti-story rhythm establishes a sense of time really effectively. And the coy abstractions (army cats, Ocean Girl, whiteheart/blackheart) actually work for me really well, as a way to put emotional state on the page while maintaining a certain distance. And of course the art is fantastic.
C. Spike Trotman and Diana Nock – Poorcraft: The Funnybook Fundamentals of Living Well on Less
Of Kickstarter fame. This was exactly what it says it is! It’s quite well done, and I think most of the advice is good. But to be honest, this isn’t the point in my life when it would have had the most value, and I already knew most of this by now.
But like I said, it’s well done. I may find myself passing this on the next time I get invited to someone’s graduation.
Yellow Tanabe – Kekkaishi vol. 32
Ah, now it comes out. Karasumori spoilers omitted.
Y’know, I’m still not 100% sure I get the Shadow Organization plot. Like, I know what’s going on, to the extent that one can, but I’m not sure I get why that’s supposed to be a good story. The motivations of the main players are so vague, and so are the things everyone meant the Organization to DO for them. Like, the Night Troops are the only part that really makes sense to me; other than that, it’s like, why does your project exist, dudes? What the hell are you doing?
Often, that whole plot seems to’ve come from a different story entirely. The themes it’s dealing with just aren’t very relevant to the core cast, and neither are the pressures that are making it warp and collapse. I dunno, I have a loose theory that it wasn’t meant to go quite like this, and got out of hand when Tanabe needed an external antagonist after the Kokuboro was dealt with. Perils of serialization, and all that.