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By Jonathan Balofsky On 3 Feb, 2017 At 01:47 PM | Categorized As Comics You Should Read, Editorials, Featured | With 0 Comments

No GravatarThis edition of Comics You Should Read is a little different. Normally I discuss individual collections of comics, but this time I am discussing an entire series.

Usagi Yojimbo is a legendary comic series by creator Stan Sakai about Miyamoto Usagi, a ronin in Edo era Japan. But there is one thing very different about this comic. Almost all the characters are anthropomorphic animals. Usagi is a rabbit for example and there are characters like Gen, who is a rhino. But do not be fooled by this, as this is not just a comic for kids but one that can be enjoyed by everyone.

The stories contained in the comic range from funny to epic to tragic, as Stan Sakai presents a look at the life of the Samurai, albeit with some fantasy elements. The stories pull no punches with how the culture worked, with numerous examples of deliberate values dissonance between Edo era Japan and the modern west. There are amazing characters like Tomoe Ame, Lord Noriyuki and Usagi’s nemesis, the demon spearman Jei, the blade of the gods.

The series has been going on since the 80’s and has crossed over with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles more than once, but new readers do not need to be worried. All the stories have been collected by both publishers Fantagraphics and Dark Horse Comics and are available for all to read. I suggest starting from the beginning though, so you will understand just who these characters are.  Some disappear a bit into the comic, as others make their debut, but all are unique in their own way.

There have been video game adaptations of Usagi in the past, including one way back on the Commodore 64, and one recently on mobile devices. The latter is one I am actually familiar with and has mostly hack n slash elements but also an original story. I suggest checking it out if you are curious.

Usagi is a comic I will be discussing a lot more in the future but wanted to just give a brief overview of first. The stories are amazing, whether they be about Usagi stopping criminals, defeating bandits, transporting a sacred sword to a shrine, or even just making a pot. They all have that special something about them that many comics lack. Usagi is an incredible character, but by Stan Sakai’s own admission, he is an unusual samurai in how he interacts with people. But this isn’t just an idealized storytelling, and the comic makes it very clear why Usagi is who he is when it shows his mentor Katsuichi, This is a comic that has all the pieces fit together just right and even years after being read, it will stick with you.

I suggest checking it out.

By Jonathan Balofsky On 14 Sep, 2016 At 10:28 PM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Editorials, Featured, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No Gravatarsimpsons

The Simpsons have had a long history with comics and some have been absolutely amazing. I recently had the chance to read Simpsons Comics Colossal Compendium volume 4 and loved it. This collection has some of the best stories the series has ever had.

To highlight a few stories in particular, we have two stories of “Tales from the Springfield Bear Patrol”, a throwback to the season 7 episode “Much Apu About Nothing”. The stories are hilarious and help touch on ideas the show hasn’t used in decades. We see how inept the bear patrol is but they always manage to save the day (sort of).

Other stories include “Judge Dreadneck” a parody of Judge Dredd with Cletus in the role. This is the second best story in this collection, with loving references to not just the comic but also 80’s movies like Mad Max. This story is one of the reasons I love the comics. They have a creativity to them that the show now lacks.

The best story in this collection though, is “The Duffman Corps” a parody of Green Lantern with Duffman in the role. It is far better than it has any right to be, with the Duffman Oath, the villain Vinostro and the Guardians of The Party. This is one of the best comic parodies I have ever seen and I was laughing so loud while reading this, that I was out of breath more than once.

These are just 3 (technically 4) of the stories within and they are all amazing. This is a comic you should take the time to seek out. The TV Show may be out of steam but The Simpsons Comics are still going strong.

By Jonathan Balofsky On 13 Sep, 2016 At 05:21 AM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Editorials, Featured, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No Gravatarlove-and-capes

I previously wrote about Love and Capes here, and now it is time for me to continue the discussion by talking about Love and Capes volume 2: Going to The Chapel.

We start off with Mark ( the crusader) planning to propose to his girlfriend Abby on Christmas ever. He is stopped, not by a villain but by her sister Charlotte who reveals that Abby would hate that type of proposal. What follows is one of the most amusing sequences in comics, as Mark comes up with idea after idea to try and propose.

Once that is done with, the volume really kicks into high gear. Abby and Mark grow closer than ever together while planning their wedding, Charlotte goes off to school in Paris ( thanks to Darkblade) and a new hire is made at Abby’s bookstore. The good times don’t last however as Mark and the rest of the super heroes are dragged off into a cosmic gladiator battle that leaves Abby alone….in more ways than one.  Thom Zahler does a really great job of breaking down the non super heroics parts of Super Hero tropes and ideas. Namely, if a super hero and their romantic partner fly off to another country, what happens when the partner becomes stranded in said country when the hero is pulled away. I thought it was excellent to show how the situation gets solved without Mark’s help. From their we deal with an evil clone that nearly destroys the romance between Mark and Abby and makes things awkward with his ex-girlfriend Amazonia. But you cannot keep a good hero down and Mark and his friends help put things right.

The next part of the comic is the best part for me. We get to see the fallout of such an event and what other characters do for support. Abby decides that the only way she will ever understand Mark is to get super powers of her own. This is accomplished thanks to Doc Karma ( who can read anyone’s mind but Abby’s), who can help her because Abby is doing this for love. It does have a warning though, as she will keep the powers until she decides she no longer wants them.  We then see Mark and Abby begin to understand each other better while working together ( and getting in some excellent jokes at the same time), while Amazonia begins to confide in Darkblade due to needing support. Abby excels for a time but Doc Karma’s warning proves true and she decide that powers are not for her. The circumstances surrounding Abby losing her powers show Zahler’s ability to write emotional scenes that really get to you, and you will feel deeply for Abby and what she is going through.

After that it is time for the wedding, but Zahler isn’t done yet. What follows is a time travel storyline, that while confusing ( and later issues joke about how confusing it is), show the depth of Abby and Mark’s relationship, as she will do anything she can to save him from an enemy. It is even pointed out in this issue that Abby has gone from being a bystander to being a badass in her own right. She is able to save Mark and foil the villain’s plan and Doc Karma then helps her return and get to the chapel for her wedding. Sorry for the lack of details but I am trying to cut down on spoilers.

Love and Capes volume 2 is a comic with excellent humor, drama and emotion. It takes the super hero concept and without trying, deconstructs then reconstructs the entire genre. It looks at what would realistically happen, then reminds us why we love these comics in the first place.

If you have not yet checked out Love and Capes, then I recommend you do so!

 

 

By Jonathan Balofsky On 9 Mar, 2016 At 10:27 PM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Featured, Reviews, Reviews, ROG Humor, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarArchie_vs_Predator_3

 

Archie comics have a reputation ( mostly deserved) of being a kiddie comic that plays things way too safe and comes off as cheesy. In recent years however, the company has taken steps to shed that image. From Afterlife with Archie (Archie with zombies and not for kids at all) to new horror comics with Sabrina ( again definitely not for kids), the company has done a lot to push Archie out of the niche it was stuck in. That said, would anyone have predicted a crossover with the Predator franchise? Or even more, a crossover that is aimed at older readers that unlike the crossover with the Punisher in the 90’s, doesn’t hesitate to show violence?

This comic is insane. I was amazed at what they put into the comic, from references to the movie protagonists, to lines being quoted. Seeing Reggie call himself a “Gosh Darned Sexual Tyrannosaurus” left me speechless. The violence was not hidden at all. Seeing Archie characters get their heads ripped off and blood splattered is a far cry from the cheesy comics of previous years.

The art is of high quality and almost eerie in how the Predator is drawn to resemble the Archie style. The story? Archie and the gang go to Costa Rica after winning a contest and during the heat wave a teenage predator comes to Earth to hunt. The predator is drawn to Betty and Veronica’s fighting and follows the gang back to Riverdale where things really hit the fan.

The writing is witty and clever and after you get passed how disturbing this can be, its actually a fun read. Although its called Archie vs Predator, the story focuses more on Betty and Veronica and their fight against the predator. Everyone else gets caught in the middle.

Be aware this is NOT a lighthearted story. Like Afterlife with Archie, this one is not for kids, or the faint of heart. If you are easily disturbed by dark imagery, then this comic is not for you. This is a comic where anyone can die and who makes it out at the end is rather surprising.

The hardcover collection includes mini comic crossovers between other Dark Horse comics and Archie characters, my favourite being Hellboy meets Sabrina.

archie-vs-predator-1-thermal-vision

In the end, I have to recommend this, but be warned once again, this is a very dark comic.