This week, Sean, MJ, & Michelle look at recent releases from Seven Seas, Viz Media, Dark Horse, Kodansha Comics, and Yen Press.
Alice in the Country of Clover: March Hare | By QuinRose and Soyogo Iwaki | Seven Seas – These one-shots can be interesting if you like to see the main male characters in different roles than they usually take. Blood Dupre makes a very good big brother type, and Peter White is rather scary when we see him actually try to act on his desires for Alice – it ends up being sexual assault, albeit cut off, and even though he later apologizes it’s still disturbing. Unfortunately, the main pairing of Alice and Eliot, while sweet, is rather dull overall There’s less of the callous disregard for life that I saw in the earlier series featuring this pairing. So in the end you’re left with a mostly fluffy book. Which is OK once in a while, but I usually expect something deeper and more disturbing from my Alice spinoffs these days. – Sean Gaffney
Bloody Cross, Vol. 2 | By Shiwo Komeyama | Yen Press – There’s a lot less of Tsukimiya and Hinata in this volume and a lot more of Tsuzuki, and I’m not really sure it’s to the book’s benefit. Tsukumiya remains a great lead character, particularly when she’s being cagey or indulging in blackmail. Likewise, we want to find out what’s going on with Hinata, and the cliffhanger clearly is there to drive us crazy. Most of the rest of the volume, though, is a lot of bland fighting, a lot of bland pretty boys, and Momose, who is the diligent catgirl demon type who always seems put into works to interest people who are not me. If you enjoy quasi-religious fantasy with lots of swinging swords, explosions, and triple crosses, this will be pretty good. But I think even the hardcore fans of that sort of genre will find this on the bland side. – Sean Gaffney
Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 1 | By Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou | Viz Media – Something I’ve appreciated in the current manga market is its abundance of re-releases, including omnibus editions of older manga, and license rescues of series that I missed the first time around. Deadman Wonderland falls into the latter of these categories, having received its original, incomplete release from Tokyopop before the demise of that company’s North American publishing division. Set in a post-apocalytic “prison” park, in which inmates are forced to battle for their lives for the public’s amusement, this series’ re-licensing amidst today’s rash of “survival game” manga seems like a no-brainer. But though the plight of falsely-accused protagonist Ganta is certainly compelling, I’m not sure I have the stomach for the series’ gleeful violence. Walking a thin line between horror manga and brutality porn, the enthusiasm of the series’ creators feels eerily like that of the prison’s eager spectators. Can I continue? Time will tell. – MJ
Drifters, Vol. 3 | By Kohta Hirano | Dark Horse Comics – I will admit that the plot of Drifters does still exist, and it’s intriguing. The Black King does not appear to entirely be the Big Bad that he’s made out to be, even if his generals all appear to fall into that role. But let’s be honest – this manga exists entirely to see how often Hirano can draw badasses being badass, and all of Volume 3 answers that question: a lot. When even the good guys are all battle crazed insane freaks, , there’s no telling what will happen next. There’s a fair amount of sexism here. Joan is treated hideously, and the constant harassment of Olminu grates on the reader as much as it does on her. But man, everyone here is clever and badass and has plenty of quips and big grins and they kill things and blow things up, and… it’s just a pure adrenaline rush of a manga. -Sean Gaffney
Genshiken 2nd Season, Vol. 4 | By Shimoku Kio | Kodansha Comics – I joked on Twitter that much of this volume felt like taking a bunch of extrovert bombs and dropping them into a crowd of introverts to explode randomly. It’s also about crushes, and the importance of saying how you feel, even if it means that your love is not returned. Hiro’s admiration/crush on his sempai has driven much of his behavior, and even as she notes she’s marrying his brother, Hiro’s attentions seem to be turning more and more to Madarame. Speaking of Madarame, he continues to attempt to awkwardly negotiate the festival while plotting and scheming goes on all around him, leading to a nasty little cliffhanger where Saki is lured into the clubroom so Madarame can confess… though she’s figured things out anyway. The characters keep you coming back to this excellent manga. – Sean Gaffney
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 11 | Original Concept by Hiro Arikawa, Manga by Kiiro Yumi | Viz Media – A piece of art critical of censorship is about to go on display at a museum in Iku’s hometown, and the Media Betterment Committee aims to prevent it being seen by the public. A gunfight ensues, which at first seems like a completely sanitized shoujo version until Iku actually glimpses a dead person and ends up shooting some people. (It’s still 90% sanitized, but that counts as progress, I think.) Meanwhile, she realizes that she really, seriously likes Dojo and they make plans to go to a café on their day off for some chamomile tea. I’ve gotten to the point with this series where I’ve stopped thinking too much about the premise, or how Iku is the weepiest soldier on the planet, and simply enjoy the nice Iku/Dojo moments, of which there are many. It’s a trick I recommend! – Michelle Smith