July 20, 2012

From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays: Finding Gossamyr, Animal Land, Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, Droids and Ewoks

From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No.105: Worlds Beyond Ours

Hey readers, and welcome back to From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, your place for all-ages comic books! Busy times this summer. I didn’t make it to San Diego Comic Con last week, but my contacts there gave me updates on the all-ages comic news which I posted for ya’ll; if you missed it, you can click here or here. As regular readers of the column know, I direct and write plays/musicals for theater, and so I have been busy here in western New York directing a short play that went up in a festival this week. However, that didn’t stop me from reading a ton of comics and finally watching the blu-ray edition of the classic Disney film The Fox and the Hound. I watched this film as a child and was always moved, and was happy to find that as an adult, I was still moved by it. As per the other Disney blu-ray transfers, they did a nice job here. However, let’s get down to what you are here for, all-ages comic book reviews!

Finding Gossamyr #1
Publisher: Th3rd World Studios
Story by: Dave Rodriguez
Art by: Sarah Ellerton

Finding Gossamyr is a smart story! It’s all-ages friendly, but not for one moment treats the reader like they’re dumb by feeding them over explanations. As it unfolds and the characters discover, the reader discovers, and there is a magical flow to these pages.

Issue #1 tells us the story of Denny, a whiz-kid genius who is under the eye of his care taker/sister Jenna. Jenna wants to go off and study in Sydney, and is forcing Denny to take a test to get into a school for gifted kids where he can be room and boarded away. One of the tests is to see if the children can solve a nearly impossible theorem, which not even the instructor at work behind it has solved. As Denny begins to solve it, though, he sees a magical world with alien-like opposing forces at hand, and immediately refuses to be pushed any further, fearing it will unlock trouble. After a fit and being sent home, Jenna and he are called back that night, the instructor realizing Denny may be the only one who can solve this equation after looking over the work he did. After a force of hand, Denny solves it, unlocking a doorway to the magic world, called Gossamyr.

As I mentioned, the writing by Rodriguez is smooth, nothing is spoon feed to the reader, instead it just rolls off as the pages come, giving us a wonderful sense of being there and mystery to just what is this math problem Denny is working on. As much as you feel a little bit for Jenna being stuck watching Denny, you really feel for this little egg-head who is just too smart almost for his own good. The artwork looks really, really good; good layouts and cool images here, folks. The dynamic of both the real world and the world of Gossamyr are rendered with a nice touch from Ellerton, making it second-read worthy.

So for issue #1, Finding Gossamyr is off to a great start, and opens up what seems like will be a great adventure to follow, issue to issue. Out now now from Th3rd World Studios.



Animal Land vol.5
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Story and Art: Makoto Raiku

This is a fantastic manga! It is over looked here in the States, written off as a violent manga take on Tarzan or The Jungle Book when volume 1 was released last year. While it is true that there are comparisons, the main character Taroza speaks with animals, it has very much become its own story, and a very good story at that.

Volume 5 starts us off with the conflict between Taroza and his group of united animals, facing off against Jyu, the third human being to appear in Animal Land, who not only believes that animals should compete and not work together, but also has the power of fire. Jyu begins setting fire to the village as the animals go and fight him, discovering fire is really hard to beat. After all is done and Jyu leaves, while some animals leave to follow Jyu, most stay to work together with Taroza and rebuild the village. While rebuilding the village, the group meets Pinta, a baby giraffe who is a lot to handle. Pinta tells Taroza about the ocean, and Taroza decides to go off to study the ocean and reunite Pinta with his mother on the way. A group of Taroza, Kurokagi, and few others set out, but shortly into their trip run into a pack of hyenas, led by Ena. After a fight is broken up between the two groups by Taroza’s ability to speak to all animals, Ena takes them to the hyenas’ home. Turns out a pack of wild horses are attacking the hyenas, and Ena does not understand why. According to the horses, another human named Giller has told the horses that the hyenas have killed the horse-leader’s baby. Taroza proves that this is a lie, but the horses don’t want to listen, and a surprise ending happens at the end of a rough battle!

Raiku’s artwork is amazingly cool! The way he draws the different types of animals and gives some of them these wild clothes or hair styles is just great to look at. The battle scenes do get violent, but not inappropriately so; these are animals in the wild, these fights are supposed to be some rough stuff. When action does take place, it zooms across the page with style and excitement. Plot wise there is still a lot of mystery as to why there are more and more humans appearing who can talk to animals and what this world all means, however, that is part of the enjoyment of this title.

On a personal note, when I was teaching myself Japanese in high school (before I had official classes in college), I would watch Konjiki no Gashbell in the Japanese language all the time with much joy. Well, for fans of Konjiki no Gashbell, or the American version Zatchbell (which is bad in comparison, hunt down the original Japanese version), the character Umagon makes an appearance here as part of the group that travels with Taroza to the ocean, translated with the name “Ponygon” in this volume. It was great to see Umagon back on the page from Raiku. Now is Umagon here the same Umagon from Gashbell? I don’t know, but that didn’t stop me from smiling with joy that he was in Animal Land.

Animal Land is a high recommendation for 8-years-old and up. Kodansha has rated this for the U.S. market release as “13 and up,” because of violence, but it is nothing that an 8-year-old couldn’t see watching Animal Planet on TV here in the States, so ignore that rating.


Star Wars Omnibus: Droids and Ewoks
Publisher: Dark Horse
Story and Art: Various army of talents

Dark Horse continues their series of reprinting classic Star Wars comic books with this massive collection “Droids and Ewoks,” which contains all eight issues of Star Wars: Droids, based off the 1985 animated TV series; and all 13 issues of Ewoks, based of that 1985 animated series, originally printed by Marvel Comics in the United States under their 1980s kid-line of comics, Star Comics. As an unusual bonus they include a short comic titled An Ewok Adventure that was part of a coloring book produced by Golden Books, which tells how the main Star Wars characters met the Ewoks in the film Return of the Jedi. Each issue is more “kid friendly,” which isn’t a surprise being they were tied into the animated cartoons, however, enjoyment can be found by any reader on these.

Star Wars: Droids follows the adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO, post-Episode 3/pre-Episode 4, as they go through a variety of masters in the first five issues, always coming up on some sort of conflict, helping resolve it, but then moving on to find a new master and stay out of further danger (which never seemed to work for these two droids). Issues 6-8 take a cool turn, and the style of the art changes from the look of the animated series into its own look, and these last three issues tell the story of Episode 4 (also known as Star Wars or Star Wars: A New Hope to the unfamiliar) through the eyes of the droids, which is a lot of fun.

The 13 issues of Ewoks are a wonderful ride if you are an Ewoks fan! Each issue follows the adventures of Wicket, Kneesaa, Teebo, Logray, and others as they battle villains across the moon of Endor, including the witch Morag, the Duloks, dirty random space pirates who stop by the moon, and other baddies. Issue #4 of Star Wars: Droids and issue #10 of Ewoks cross over thanks to a rip in time/space. The Droids end up on Endor’s moon and have to save a young prince who is supposed to be under their watchful eye. Art on all the Ewoks issues doesn’t change in look like the Droids series, and looks like the cartoon the whole run.

This is certainly a cool addition to any Star Wars-fan’s, or Ewoks fan’s (since I know there is a division amongst some on those little alien bear-like creatures), collection. The biggest draw for this will be for fans of those cartoons/80s nostalgia and Star Wars completists. However, the stories are great, you don’t need knowledge of the Star Wars universe before reading them, and so anyone can jump in and have a good time. Dark Horse has done a great job with the reprints here, each page vibrantly colored and restored, these comics haven’t looked better. Available reprinted in a physical soft-cover on over 400 glossy pages, or you can buy digital, as well!


Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal
Publisher: Viz Media (serialized currently in Shonen Jump Alpha)
Story by: Shin Yoshida
Art by: Naohito Miyoshi
Original Concept by: Kazuki Takahashi
Production Support by: Studio Dice

Starting last week in Shonen Jump Alpha was something pretty big for manga fans here in the United States, and that was Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, the latest entry in the always evolving saga of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise. When Shonen Jump was first printed in America over ten years ago, the key to its success was built upon manga hits of things folks already knew, namely Dragon Ball Z and Yu-Gi-Oh!, thanks to them being hits on TV here. While today it may be hard to remember a time when no American knew what Naruto or One Piece was, when Shonen Jump launched here, Yu-Gi-Oh! was already in full swing as the next Pokemon for North America, and so it has been a staple of sorts to Shonen Jump. So when Shonen Jump ended and then was relaunched as weekly digital magazine Shonen Jump Alpha, one of things missing was that staple Yu-Gi-Oh! title. However, that is all finally fixed.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, like all Shonen Jump Alpha titles, is published here digitally only two weeks after each chapter is published in Japan, giving fans of the franchise the freshest adventures possible. Zexal tells the tale of Yuma Tsukumo, a kid who loves dueling but is actually terrible at it. One day he meets a strange alien being named Astral who helps him duel, unlocking his potential. Before we know it, Yuma and his friends form the Number Hunters Club, to seek out and track down these rare numbers-cards, which could unlock a destructive force able to wipe out the world.

At the heart of the manga, the concept of an intense card game with creatures battling as the fate of the world hangs in the balance is all here, just with a new variation like we get with every new Yu-Gi-Oh! series. The new twists with aliens and mysterious beings is a fun one, certainly more entertaining than Yu-Gi-Oh! GX (although fans might miss Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s bike races). The art by Miyoshi is some of the nicer seen in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga in recent times, with battle scenes that are clear and exciting. Writing by Yoshida follows the typical predictable Yu-Gi-Oh! standards for plot twists and writing, but then again, that’s why new fans are always being created and old fans come back, you want things to change but not too much sometimes.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal is weekly in Shonen Jump Alpha as mentioned. Like most manga in Shonen Jump Alpha, it’s only two weeks behind at its premiere, however, like those other titles as well, there is a collected first volume already available to read in digital and print to catch up to what’s running in Jump.


That’s it for this week! See you you next, and until then, get your kaiju-game on!

Drew McCabe



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