From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No.122: Manga, Manga, and Kinda Manga!
Hello folks, and welcome back to another week here at our all-ages comics column, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! Hopefully you survived the rush of Black Friday shopping and are settling down to check out some books (or maybe you avoided the craziness all together). Before we get down to it, Tuesday this week we had a special bonus column where we checked out some Thanksgiving-themed titles, check that out here. Now onto the reviews!
The world of Pokemon has become massive. Between the three games, there are three different lands and hundreds of Pokemon these days. However, the basic core element is there no matter which story you follow. A youth coming of age goes on an adventure to become a Pokemon Master, finding themselves and friendship all the way as they learn about life. The Diamond and Pearl/Platinum (I know that title looks odd, but that’s how it’s written) series is set in the land of the second game, as we follow Lady on her journey to become a Master, along the way making friends with boys Pearl and Diamond (who she thought were her bodyguards thanks to an earlier mix-up in a previous volume), as she gets her gym badges.
In the sixth volume, the three have gone their own ways and are on their own adventures. Pearl finds himself in a factory trying to find his way out, and with the help of a Luxray, battles some baddie-Pokemon. Lady finds herself almost freezing to death after a skiing accident, but she is rescued by a girl, Candice, who turns out to be the next gym leader she is destined to face. Lady goes off and challenges the gym leader as a Pokemon battle filled with lessons ensues. Finally, we find Diamond as he finds his way and meets the creator of the Poketech, and gets roped into helping him. This is short lived, as a wild Pokemon shows up and Diamond faces his first challenge of trying to capture a wild Pokemon.
Kusaka does a nice job with the story, trying to mix it up with the characters so it’s not just a straight re-do of the Red and Blue series, only starring a female instead of a male on her journey. Yamamoto does great art, his Pokemon looking spot on to their video game counterparts, and his battle scenes flowing nicely. If you like Pokemon, you will simply like this title as it gives it a nice mix from the usual Poke-tale, but still keeps the stuff that made us fall for the franchise in the first place.
Every time I write about Animal Land in this column, I feel like I say the same thing: it rocks. Some readers may have issues with the violence being a little bloody and animal characters looking a little too real (as in contrast to the above Pokemon, where the violence isn’t bloody and creatures are less realistic looking), but if you can get beyond that in Raiku’s storytelling art style, there is a real gem of a book here that is a solid adventure tale, with the sixth volume developing more of a sci-fi spin, diverging from the previous Tarzan-vibe.
Taroza and pals make it past the battle between the horse and hyena tribes and get to their goal: the ocean. There they meet the being that was almost calling to Taroza through his dreams: a giant whale. The whale reveals some startling truths though about Animal Land, like that Taroza is only one of five human beings on the planet and the rest of the human race has died out. Still, a ray of light is on the horizon as Taroza finds the place where a fruit that all animals, meat eaters and vegetable eaters, can eat grows, which could bring peace to the animals. When his group gets to the garden, they are greeted with the raging fists of Gorillas led by human girl Riemu. Taroza would like to take the fruit back, but Riemu would like him to stay with her forever, being it has been told the fruit will not bring peace, and in the past when it was introduced the meat eaters just got greedy and ate both the fruit and other animals. Before we know it, though, the fifth human, Giller, shows up with some sort of hulking mutants and attacks; his goal: to destroy everything.
Volume 6 is a ride and solves a ton of mysteries that have been in Animal Land, but provides new ones at the same time. Makoto has done a grade-A job with both story and art, Animal Land getting better with each volume and chapter. This volume also contains an Animal Land side story which takes place a few volumes back, and a way cool bonus all-new Zatch Bell story that takes place after the series ends, much to the joy of fans of that series by Makoto (hint Kodansha: publish the Zatch Bell series and complete it finally here, and leave it uncut!).
Volume 6 of Animal Land is out in print and highly recommended.
It has been a bit since I featured Archie Comics’ comic book version of Mega Man in this column, and so I thought we’d check in on it for you guys. The comic has been rocking out still since last year. Currently it took a break from following the video games to give us the back story on Protoman the last two issues, and in issue 19 a story featuring Roll and friends!
Roll is at the beach with Tempo (Quake Woman) and Kalinka when a cruise ship gets grounded. However, when Roll calls for help, Mega Man is under repairs from Dr. Light, and so it’s up to Roll and friends, including our favorite robot dog Rush, to save the day. Oil Man shows up with the new robot maser Splash Woman to round off the team, and the rescue begins as these heroes not normally in the spotlight save the day!
There are plenty of good things in this issue. The first and foremost is the spotlight on the other great characters in the Mega Man universe in their own stories. The second is Flynn writing a story that isn’t A vs. B. It’s about saving people from disaster, which is what the robot masters are designed for in Dr. Light’s eyes, so it’s a nice break from the usual, and done right. Jampole’s art looks great, love his layouts. Some of his humans look a little too cartoony for me, but his design on the robot heroes is spot on.
Issue #19 of Mega Man is another great issue in this series that if you haven’t checked it out, you should. Available in both digital and print.
That’s it for this week, see you next!