From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No. 131
Hello readers, and welcome back to the 131st edition of our all-ages comics column, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! This week we have a look on two titles that are both all-ages and all new to the digital side of North American comics! Let’s just save the rest of the blah-blah-blah intro stuff and get down to it!
So once again, this is where I say it is possibly the best time ever to be a comics reader in North America, where we have access to everything and anything it seems most days. This week’s mind blowing addition that we have access to is the weekly all-ages British comic The Phoenix! The Phoenix very, very quickly has gotten a great rep, and there is good reason. Like its peer all-age title The Beano, it comes out every week, however, the likeness really ends there. Where The Beano is great gag humor, it’s a title that is more than just a good laugh every week, with a good chunk of its art looking the same, and really is more like watching your favorite sitcom. The Phoenix on the other hand, has several stories every week as well, but each one visually looking individual from the others, the genres a combination of everything from adventure based to sci-fi humor, and of course presenting a comic-mag without any ads. It’s not an easy task to achieve, but The Phoenix has achieved it, excelled with it, and is quickly gaining the critical praise and reader love ‘n worship this weekly deserves. The Phoenix recently joined the iTunes news stand for North American readers, where you can buy individual issues or subscribe, blessing us with its glory and without emptying our pockets attempting to import the physical mag (which for anyone in North America who has tried this, I have with Japanese weeklies, and it can be a financially draining experience).
The great stories in issue #56 include “The Pirates of Pangaea,” great old world pirates and dinosaur action by Daniel Hartwell and Neill Cameron; the hysterical “Bunny vs. Monkey” by Jamie Smart; the crazy good part sci-fi/part fantasy “Long Gone Don” from the imagination of the Etherington Brothers; “Corpse Talk with Adam Murphy” (which will leave you in tears it’s so funny); animal humor with “Gary’s Garden” by Gary Northfield and “Go Fetch” by Alexis Frederick-Frost; the awesome “Cora’s Breakfast” by Nick Abadzis; soccer-based literary short “A Game of Two Halves” by Simon Rae with illustrations by Patrice Aggs; as well as puzzles and games! Phew, that’s a lot they pack in!
The biggest praise I can write, is it’s all quality! It’s tough to say one triumphs above another, because it’d be like picking your favorite child. The art on “Long Gone Don” is amazing, and has this Belgian comics vibe of color and detail. “The Pirates of Pangaea” is incredibly entertaining (who doesn’t love dinosaurs and pirates n the same title). “Bunny vs. Monkey” is fun stuff, and art side will remind North American readers of Jhonen Vasquez’s artwork. “Gary’s Garden” and “Go Fetch” are hysterical comics with unique art. “Cora’s Breakfast” has continued to be an entertaining adventure of a girl who gets different powers as she eats a box of alien cereal! And “Corpse Talk with Adam Murphy,” perhaps my personal favorite, always leaving me in tears of laughter, the art style to the pacing of the writing packed with its humor is just so spot-on that its short two pages turn into a re-read worthy title every week.
If you can’t tell, I just cannot say enough good things about The Phoenix. I know every year there are a few titles in this column that I just gloat over with joy, and I am happy that the first title of 2013 that I can say is an amazing find and read for us here is The Phoenix. Check it out if you have an iPad, you won’t be sorry! Click here for their web site (which can also guide you to the iPad App to download).
Just in time for the 75th anniversary of famed manga creator Shotaro Ishinomori, Archaia gives us a preview of their brand new Cyborg 009 graphic novel coming out this summer, with an exclusive on comiXology that contains the opening of the story, an interview with FJ DeSanto, and a reprint of part of the original manga by Shotaro Ishinomori. Now adapting things from a Japanese comic into an American comic for western readers is nothing new. Plenty of readers still hold spots of fondness in their hearts for Now Comics’ long ongoing series adaptations of Astro Boy and Speed Racer in the 1980s, but where it differs here is DeSanto is trying to get as close to the original story as possible, just with an updated look and layout for readers of the West.
The American portion opens up and pretty much runs exactly like the Japanese original, only a bit shorter. Cyborg 009 wakes up in a room, confused, scared and suddenly having to fight against an army of big old bad robots. After he’s done, he discovers he is the 9th in a line of cybernetic warriors, and as final proof of his abilities to his surprise, the powers that be ask him to finish demonstrating his powers by destroying the previous eight units. Before anything goes down, though, the eight warriors attack their creators, the Black Ghost Organization, in defiance, asking Cyborg 009 to join them in this rebellion since he is one of them. He gladly does, and an action packed issue of rebellion and escape ensues!
Story wise, as said, it is awfully close to its Cold War counterpart manga, the difference being in the manga we see part of the nine heroes abducted against their will before being turned into these warriors, where here we don’t dive into that and go straight into the slam-bang action side of things. Marcus To does amazing things with the art in these pages. I am usually iffy about these east-to-west adaptations, but To does impressive work, and knows how to both draw an action story and still leave the character designs to echo their manga-roots without becoming a crappy looking Ameri-manga hybrid. These characters look very American comics style, nothing here is trying to be something else, just a good retelling of a classic story. Perhaps it is because of that, it achieves that unique success in east-to-west transitioning that leaves us wanting more.
Chapter 000 of Cyborg 009 is a great read, and will have you very much looking forward to the graphic novel this summer. Check it out on comiXology.
That’s it for this week! See you next!