What a perfectly normal amount of time later to find ourselves at the mercy of another New Comic Book Day! A normal week for a normal world; a neutron dance for a neutron spurl.
I live in Arizona–where the Arpaio roams the dunes, howling and farting–and bitch about the godless heat as much as anyone, but this wave that much of Europe and the UK is experiencing is truly dangerous and is going to kill a lot of people. With that in mind I have sorted through dozens of “I lived in a hot country, here’s my advice” threads that turned out to be jokes and found one that’s actually helpful on the off chance that anyone reading this needs to know these things and doesn’t already:
Aussie here. Here’s some heat tips I’ve picked up over the years, for anyone who needs them.
I’m pretty poor, so haven’t been around aircon a lot. This is how I’ve managed to survive, both in the city, and in the country.
— Lue (@Luecleste) July 17, 2022
Nota bene: I do not follow this person and cannot vouch for their non-heatwave opinions, but their avi is a hand-drawn rainbow Garak, and if there’s a better sign that someone is trustworthy it’d be news to me, my dear doctor.
Aside the increasing levels of hostility that the world around us is displaying to biological life, let’s get to the main event, the raison d’etre, the joie de vivre, the pomme de terre: New Friggin’ Comic Book Day.
“When a powerful warship from the Kingdom of Veronia arrives in Zoltan’s waters, it sends the city into chaos. A prince aboard the vessel believes his long lost mother is hiding somewhere in the area, and he refuses to leave until he finds her. Red and his friends begin the search while handling the problems caused by the imposing warship’s presence but are beset by a group of honorless assassins. Apparently, not everyone is looking forward to the queen’s return…“
Based on that blurb I wouldn’t even have guessed that this was an entry in the same series whose last volume saw the construction of a wee shop and the arrival of an unexpected employee, and I am frankly a little concerned about what these developments will mean for the rollout of the Goozleberry Tinctures that Red has been working on. How’s a man supposed to extract essences and distill salts and similar with this kinda ruckus? Missing Queens? Assassins? Vessels?
Admittedly, they’re all gonna find themselves needing those things we all realize too late that we forgot to bring with us when we travel, and Red’s apothecary will be right there for them; assassins specifically go through cotton balls, shaving cream and elastic hair-ties like you wouldn’t believe.
In seriousness I was pleasantly surprised when Red’s former partner turned up at the end of the first volume, but I was really hoping it would be the beginning of a pattern of the good, simple, wholesome life claiming adventurer after adventurer, not so much world of adventure descending on innocent, peaceful village, but there’s plenty of time for the story to explore its space and move those pieces around.
“An unexplored dungeon, filled with monsters and traps. An expert thief, searching for her lost father. When Clay delves into the dungeon deeper than any adventurer has ever gone, she is offered a job by the dungeon’s caretaker! Now, instead of exploring, Clay must learn how to interview new monsters, set traps and position slimes around the dungeon. Will this new career path bring her any closer to finding her father?“
HELL yes, this is what I’m talking about, gimme small, slice-of-life, behind-the-scenes stories about places and systems we take for granted. I’ve talked before about how one of my favorite ongoing series, Delicious In Dungeon, has a character that basically acts as game warden/park ranger for an enormous, living dungeon-complex’s ecosystem, and this seems a LOT like that but from the other side of the story. Did you think those traps and pressure-plates and dartguns and doors that open into giant slavering chompy-maws reset themselves? How do you think all the crumbly bits of floor that give way as you step on them get fixed, cobblestone-goblins???
I think the tone and at least initial direction of this series are pretty clear, it does what it says on the tin, but I’m personally hoping (albeit without much expectation) that it goes even deeper than that, like living statues having to fill out reports after they scare off adventurers and maintenance-slimes arguing over who gets to clean out the breakroom fridge by just kinda slarbing around in there.
It probably isn’t an especial puzzler to consider the prevalence and popularity of stories specifically dealing with escapes from the day-to-day modern world into low-pressure, wholesome scenarios where our talents are appreciated; I think the mechanisms driving that are pretty clear, and I for one am extremely grateful to every creative who feels it the way I do and decides to actually draw about it for several hundred pages so I can enjoy it with them.
“HOW HARD CAN DATING BE? After a single, accidental touch ﬁnds Ichiro, a struggling shojo manga artist, suddenly engaged to his new assistant, the beautiful, alien(?) princess, Shiori, they agreed to test the waters of their new relationship with their very ﬁrst date! Will an outing at the zoo, a dinner, and a picnic deepen their relationship and their conﬁdence? There’s only one problem… it’s never just the two of them! With winter fast approaching and Christmas soon upon them, can Ichiro and Shiori work up the courage to embark on that famous shojo manga love story staple — the Christmas date?!”
Eyyyy it’s Ichiro and Shiori! You may remember these nice, accidentally-married kids from the first proper review I did after the upgrade from wee-Blogger-blog to Proper Site I Pay For An’ All, and I for one am thrilled to see them return.
I am also thrilled to see that the story will continue to actively incorporate and acknowledge shojo tropes as it progresses, or at least Shiori will, because it’s adorable and I understand in my bones the desire to have a language and a system to describe the world and the way you want to move through it, and shojo seems to offer her as good a vocabulary as any. Naturally they’ll have to hit some This Is Real Life Not A Story bumps along the way, and given the apparently iconic status of the Christmas Date and the narrative weight it must bear in the genre, that sounds like the perfect place for things to go disastrously, hilariously wrong. Also just because of who I am as a person I’m hoping that bespoke Tarot deck that Ichiro made for his wee sister makes a reappearance, but I’m not counting on it.
“At long last, it’s the Home Sick Pilots—in a walking haunted house—versus the Nuclear Bastards—in a mech fueled by the sins of the nation. A battle of the bands to end all battles…and probably the world as we know it. DAN WATTERS (Arkham City: The Order of the World, COFFIN BOUND) and CASPAR WIJNGAARD (Star Wars, Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt) return for the thrilling final volume of bloody action, busted guitar pedals, and ghosts. Collects HOME SICK PILOTS #11-15”
I WILL ADMIT, lest I be caught in a fib of omission, that I’m a volume behind on HSP. There are a lot of comics, gang! I should probably start monitoring my preorder list to make sure I’m current on things that will have new installments before they drop. I owe it to you: my possibly-fictional public.
Regardless, the end of Vol. 1 made it clear that it was always going to come to this, the final confrontation between the Home Sick Pilots and the Nuclear Bastards, two of the absolute baddest punk rock bands/mech-pilot teams the West Coast have ever seen, a BATTLE OF THE SPOOKYGROUPS par excellence. I actually find myself in a rare and lovely position, because now I can read all three in a row and gobble the whole thing down like the super-juicy grape Bubble Tape rock-and-roll extravaganza it was always meant to be.
Also, speaking of all things punk, there’s an excellent real-play RPG podcast called Dungeon Punks that is very in keeping with the spirit of this series, following the adventures of a band called Rust Monster as they attempt to prevent the Metal Lords from returning after the events of the Disco Wars; Stu Popp is one of the top 5 DMs I’ve ever heard in my life, and it’s a great D&D show (though they do switch to other systems after the Wizards Of The Coast debacle) and a great way to find new music, since they play a song from a band they like twice per episode.
“Seven years ago, an attempt to weaponize dreams resulted in holes being punched through the world we know and into the world of dreams. Nightmarish creatures now stalk the land, sprouting from (and killing) anyone unlucky enough to dream. The only way to save the world is for certain people to have their dreams come true. Which is how Risa Himura finds herself not only fighting monsters, but forced into finding true love. Monsters and modern dating? It feels like a nightmare either way, and the only help Risa has is a friendly-ish monster named Croak and her pre-teen daughter, Machi. From Paul Tobin (BUNNY MASK) and Andy MacDonald (I BREATHED A BODY, Multiple Man), comes a unique story of one woman’s quest to save the world, if only she could learn the difference between love and monsters. This volume collects issues #1-5.”
The spookum-credentials are strong with this one; Bunny Mask is a carnival of red delights and voices in the dark, and while I cannot honestly say I cared for I Breathed A Body I certainly respect the caliber of work and upsetting horror-logic that behind every visceral creative decision that went into it, and those are a weird enough couple of titles that I’m sure they can do a lot with dream warfare. Also maybe dream smooching? POR QUE NO LOS DOS?
If I’m honest, Aftershock was never high on my list of publishers, but looking at their list I’m beginning to wonder what led me to that conclusion, because they’ve been making a lot of great shit: Maniac Of New York (which I liked a LOT), Chicken Devil, Bunny Mask, Kaiju Score (which was GREAT), Baby Teeth; their catalogue is buff and only getting stronger.
“BEHOLD, A TALE OF INFINITE SONJAS. RED Sonja, BLUE Sonja, GREEN Sonja, ORANGE Sonja, SAINT Sonja, HELL Sonja…and ENDLESS MORE. Across dimensions, a greedy god comes calling for every Sonja, to pay their debt. What do they each owe? SONJA’S MUST KILL SONJA’S. It is up to RED Sonja to determine which Sonja’s are friend, foe and…DINOSAUR!?” Collecting Sonjaversal #1-5.”
To my shame–I can feel my Comics Cred dropping as I type, I’ll never qualify for that Holodeck loan now–I consider myself fairly well-versed in your various Conans but don’t actually know from Sonja, who I understand is a kind of cousin of his also created by Robert E. Howard, or at least slarbed together from several of his badass dame characters, and has a long and storied history from a number of fantastic authors in a somewhat shared-setting with Conan and, depending on who you ask, Cthulhu.
I’ll be honest: I do not consider myself a prude, but I think there’s a difference between “prudish” and “would prefer not to be the guy visibly reading comics about women in literal chain-mail bikinis’, which I think we can agree is fair; this has kept me from seeing what Sonja’s adventures are all about, and also from seeing if those John Carter and Dejah Thoris comics are any good. But when I saw that the creator of Dr. McNinja and the second-best writer the Adventure Time comics had* was doing a Sonja collection, I had to make an exception, both because I’ll read anything he writes forever, and because knowing him I’m reasonably sure it won’t be a boobstravaganza, or at least not one without purpose, and I am always down for Alternate Versions Fighting, Maybe Together, Maybe Each Other, especially if one of them is a DINOSAURNJA.
(Note: The best writer the Adventure Time comics had was Ryan North; all love and respect to Chris, but one does not pretend that Ryan isn’t the best writer who worked on anything he worked on.)
“The follow-up to 2021’s surprise cartoon/horror smash hit, STRAY DOGS! In DOG DAYS, each of the Strays gets their moment to shine with a series of vicious short stories. Questions are answered, mysteries are solved, and old wounds get torn open. This genre-bending thrill ride takes the reader from the first dog the Master captured to the final moments at his house of horrors. STRAY DOGS: DOG DAYS is a heartbreakingly adorable horror anthology by My Little Pony comic artists TONY FLEECS & TRISH FORSTNER. In this collection…every dog has its day. “Another suspenseful and gut-wrenching journey into darkness that blends Don Bluth-inspired cuteness with Hitchcock-level terror.” —Lotusland Comics “The bold artwork combines with vivid storytelling, all of which wraps around the reader’s heart and refuses to let go.” —Monkeys Fighting Robots Collects STRAY DOGS: DOG DAYS #1-2, plus the STRAY DOGS FCBD PROLOGUE”
LA-LA-LA I HAVEN’T READ THE FIRST ONE YET LA-LA-LA I’M SORRY LA-LAAAAAAA but nonetheless: yes please, I am ready to be emotionally destroyed by tales (OR PERHAPS: TAILS???) of canine carnage.
“With a good job as an elementary school teacher and a love for her partner, India’s life seems okay at face value. However, with a chronic mental illness that causes her to have panic attacks regularly, each day can be a struggle. With the threat of having her class taken from her, the pressure is building, and India needs to face her problems head on and take action.
This wonderful story of perseverance is beautifully and meticulously illustrated by Ilaria Urbinati, and wonderfully written by Brian Freschi, allowing India to be connectable to all audiences.”
Fun fact that will probably come as no surprise to the reader: I myself am mentally/chemically ill, and have gotten my serotonin from a bottle for years, and while comics have always been one of the more popular media for discussing mental health and its struggles, the last few years have seen a huge uptick in bigger and better-supported releases on the topic, and while that’s not the same as widespread support and bolstered resources and access to those resources for the most vulnerable, it’s certainly better than nothing, especially considering the reluctance of the publishing industry to embrace topics like this.
What excites me about TVS is that stories about dealing with mental health/illness often take one of two tacks, either “a big thing happened and we need to deal with it and Solve The Problem”, or “my life will always have This Struggle and here’s what that’s like”, and both of those are perfectly cromulent stories that a lot of people are living in their real lives, but it’s really nice to see a combination of the two, where the story is “I’ve been dealing with this as best I can for a long time but it’s becoming unsustainable and I need to make a change”, which is also an extremely common story (I say from personal experience) but one that doesn’t lend itself quite as well to telling in most media. No two mental health stories are the same and they all deserve to be told, but until we all have our own publishing platforms I’ll continue to be grateful for the increasing diversity of those that are available to us.
“This is the strange, action-packed story of the working life of Hirota, a contractor who deals with a mysterious natural phenomenon known as “Flow,” his employee Chima-chan (who looks 12, but is really 35), and Shacho (a cat)! If, when you’re looking out at a landscape that should be familiar to you, something feels subtly off, giving you a strange, prickly feeling, that’s “Flow.” Even Mother Nature makes mistakes sometimes.”
Yes hello, Kodansha? Please stop describing this series as action-packed, it is filled with small moments of sweet and mysterious wonder! And also goofs about how Hirota is a lazy piece of shit and Chima basically has to run his business for him! Stop trying to sell this like it’s fuckin, I dunno, what’s a current action-manga, Shaman King or something!
That editorial gripe aside I’m thrilled to see this see this series return! And so soon after the last volume! So soon, in fact, that I haven’t had a chance to read Vol. 2 yet! For which I will not be bullied into apologizing, like a 7-year-old who knows he was right to pull off that mall Santa’s fake beard and expose the CLAUS-FRAUD being perpetrated.
The number of small, quiet manga series being not only produced but picked up for U.S. distribution by the Big Three is enormously encouraging, even if my wallet and free time away from the cinnamon-mines shudder at the prospect; cultural tastes change, and societies want different things from their media based on what’s going on around them, and after a coupla decades of New Edge I think we could all use a media-cycle of cozy stories. If nothing else, it explains the Agatha Christie Renaissance, and if Branagh’s Poirot wasn’t quite the kickoff the trend might’ve hoped for, let us be grateful for Benoit Blanc, out there takin’ her easy for all us sinners.
AND THAT, my friends, is the unexpectedly large haul the week has brought to me; all of it’s great, and I can’t wait to crack all of their claws open and pry out the delicious, glowing meats within.
What’d you all get? What’re you looking forward to? Is Stray Dogs just Nightmare Homeward Bound, and if so how is Michael J. Fox involved? How many Red Sonjas can you read while still being a feminist? Is gold always a good investment? One day we’ll know some of these answers. Until then: be good to yourselves, be good to each other, wear your goddamned masks and also don’t fuckin’ touch anything you don’t have to because now we are DUAL-WIELDING PLAGUES, and if you see four lights, say four lights. Qapla’.
When I died upon that cold cold night
Made a promise never leave her side