Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Captain Harlock: The Classic Collection, Vol 1 and Slum Wolf

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“There’s definitely some kind of cycling going on here”

This month Shea and Derek discuss two great works that bring back some older, or classic, manga. They begin with Leiji Matsumoto’s Captain Harlock: The Classic Collection, Vol 1 (Seven Seas Entertainment), a series that originally ran between 1977 and 1979. Captain Harlock is a classic science fiction work, and with a space pirate protagonist who can be seen as a romantic hero. The Two Guys discuss the figure of Harlock as a curious mixture, while at the same time trying to ferret out the his philosophy. In many ways, they see this manga anchored in its time, both aesthetically and politically. But this work definitely isn’t limited to it’s time and can be appreciated today.

Next they turn to Slum Wolf, another translated collection from Tadao Tsuge (New York Review Comics). An earlier collection of Tsuge’s work, Trash Market, was released in 2015 by Drawn and Quarterly (which the guys reviewed on their June 2015 episode). Slum Wolf is a collection of nine stories originally published between 1969 and 1978 in various publications such as Garo and YagyōIt also includes an essay by Tsuge, as well as a outstanding contextual essay by Ryan Holmberg, who also edited and translated the collection. The guys discuss all the stories, to greater or lesser degrees of depth, but they spend most of their time talking about the linking features that bind most of the narratives. As both Derek and Shea point out, this is one of the manga highlights of the year, so far.

Comics Alternative, Episode 280: Reviews of The New World: Comics from Mauretania, Young Frances, and A Walk through Hell #1

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A Comfortable Fogginess

On this episode of the podcast, Paul and Derek look at three new releases that, while all compelling readings, are vastly different in style and narrative approach. They begin with Chris Reynold’s The New World: Comics from Mauretania, recently released from Gallery 13. This is a collection of Reynold’s Mauretania comics published beginning in the 1980s. This volume was designed by Seth, and he also provided a brief and insightful note at the end of the text. Neither Paul nor Derek had encountered any of the Mauretania stories before, and they’re sorry that they hadn’t read Reynolds any sooner. The narratives are dreamlike and random in their coherency, and while making any sense of their meaning and action can be an exercise in frustration, they are strangely some of the most compelling comics the guys have read this year.

Next, the Two Guys turn to a creator whom they’ve read and loved before, but not by his current name. Both Paul and Derek are big fans of the series Pope Hats, authored by Ethan Rilly, an anagram of Hartley Lin. In Young Frances (AdHouse Books), Lin is now using his real name and collects issues #2, #3, and #5 of his defining series. The text presents the story of Frances Scarland, a young legal clerk whose efficiency and competency are admired by those around her, but who nonetheless wonders if she’s just drifting through life without purpose. Her best friend, Vickie, is impulse and more scattered, yet talented enough to find a lead role acting in a hit television crime drama. This is yet another example of “verite dessinée” storytelling, a favorite of Derek’s and Paul’s.

The guys conclude this episode by looking at the first issue of Garth Ennis and Goran Sudžuka’s A Walk through Hell (AfterShock Comics). A mix of horror and crime, this first issue establishes the premise of the series but does so in a way that poses a variety of questions. In fact, both Paul and Derek feel as if this first issue ended almost too quickly — a sense that they’ve gotten with other AfterShock first issues — although there is enough in this inaugural installment to have them wanting to come back to the series. In this first issue, Special Agents Shaw and McGregor work a recent race-related killing while at the same time investigating the disappearance of two fellow officers. What they stumble onto, and we never get a sense of what that is, is apparently something so horrific that even the most hardened law enforcers are unable to live with what they saw.

Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Reviews of Brazen and Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures

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Pants On

This month Pascal and Derek look at two recent books that, while strikingly different in their storytelling approaches, are both insightful examinations of the socio-historical forces that shape individuals’ lives. They begin with Pénélope Bagieu’s Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World (First Second), a collection of 29 short biographies profiling women throughout history who have pushed back and defined themselves on their own terms. This book began as a series of webcomics that appeared on Le Monde‘s blog between January and October 2016. There was actually one original entry, a biographical look at Phulan Devi, that didn’t make it into the American text, and the guys speculate as to why this might have been.

After that they discuss Yvan Alagbé’s Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures, just released from New York Review Comics. This is a much less conventional collection, at least in terms of its narrative and visual styles. The book includes seven short pieces that were originally created between 1995 and 2017. The title story is the longest, and most sophisticated, of the bunch, but Pascal and Derek also spend some time focusing on “The Suitcase” and “Postcard from Montreuil.”  What almost all of the stories in this book focus on, in one way or another, is France’s colonialist past and its ramifications to this day.

Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Reviews of Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker, and The Green Hand and Other Stories

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Post-Natal Returns

After having to readjust for a few major life changes — including a new baby for first-time parents! — Edward and Derek are back with the monthly Euro Comics series. For November they discuss two graphic biographies devoted to early twentieth-century artists as well as a collection of surreal and experimental fiction. They start with Carlos Sampayo and Jose Muñoz’s Billie Holiday (NBM Publishing), a text that fully utilizes the somber, even noir uses of black-and-white (Muñoz’s art was an inspiration for Frank Miller’s Sin City, after all). Originally published by Fantagraphics in 1993, this work provides a skeletal overview of Holiday’s life and career, both its artistic highs and its drug-filled lows.

A much more detailed graphic biography is Jose-Luis Bocquet and Catel Muller’s Josephine Baker. Published by SelfMadeHero, this is an extensive look at Baker’s life and includes encyclopedic back matter that supplements the narrative. This is a more conventional biography than the one on Billie Holiday, a chronological accounting from a more objective, detached point of view. Perhaps most notable is the fact that Edward, himself, did the translation of this text (although not the back matter). As such, he provides insightful behind-the-scenes information about the preparation of this album, its editorial handling of sensitive racial issues, and the dynamics involved in the art of translation.

Finally, Derek and Edward wrap up with very different kind of work, Nicole Claveloux’s The Green Hand and Other Stories (New York Review Comics). In addition to its longer titular story, the collection includes seven other Claveloux short comics that vary in style and narrative conventionality. All of the pieces are dreamlike, even psychedelic in nature, originally appearing in Métal Hurlant or through Les Humanoïdes Associés between 1979 and 1980. With an introduction by Daniel Clowes and an interview with “Green Hand” co-creator Edith Zha, this is collection that serves as a great introduction to the often-overlooked Claveloux.

Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Reviews of Pretending Is Lying and The Lighthouse

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Edward’s Nitpicks

For the month of March, Edward and Derek look at two very different European titles. They begin with Dominique Goblet’s Pretending Is Lying, released last month from New York Review Comics. This is a creator whom Edward has read in the original French, and so some of their conversation centers on matters of translation. But more significant is the guys’ discussion of Goblet’s handling of time and memory, as well as the book’s expressive and experimental style. And, as Derek is keen to point out, there are key passages that allude to the work of Brian Wilson!

Next, the Euro Comics Guys discuss the latest English-language release from Paco Roca, The Lighthouse (NBM Publishing). They’ve twice discussed Roca’s comics before — Wrinkles during their interview with Erica Mena, and his contribution to the Spanish Fever anthology on last year’s September episode — and this one is markedly different. Edward comments on the story’s simplicity, even it’s pat qualities, while Derek is charmed by the novella-like qualities of this early work from Roca. And ever the sound effects aficionado, Edward nitpicks (but in a good way) over some of the translator’s choices.

Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Reviews of Soft City and The World of Edena

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Soft and Lush

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  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:03:03 – Listener mail!
  • 00:07:29 – Soft City
  • 00:39:12 – The World of Edena
  • 01:18:12 – Wrap up
  • 01:19:09 – Contact us

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For the November episode in the Euro Comics series, Edward and Derek take a look at two new releases of older titles. They begin with Hariton Pushwagner’s Soft City (New York Review Comics). Began in 1969 and completed in 1975, the book was lost for a number of years but then rediscovered in 2002. Since then, the original art from Soft City has been exhibited in the Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art and the Sydney Biennial, both in 2008. In fact, part of the guys’ coverage of the book revolves around the topic of comic art as exhibition. But most of their discussion involves the text’s symmetrical construction, its poetic imagery, and its mixed futuristic tone.

After that, Edward and Derek turn to a new collected edition work from one of comics’ legends. The World of Edena is the first in Dark Horse Book’s new Moebius Library, and it brings together Jean Giraud’s (or Moebius’s) five-volume series. The guys discuss the book’s origins, beginning as promotional comic for the French car manufacturer Citroën in 1983 and then ending as a full-fledged, philosophical, and very trippy series in 2001. There is a lot to explore of the book’s many narrative facets, and the Two Guys spend much of their time looking at the themes of exploration and sexuality, the dream-infused nature of the story, its comedic undertones, and the clean-line style and lush colors that define its art.

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