Fantasy is one of those genres that comes in waves. Sometimes, we’re lousy with good fantasy material, and, sometimes, it’s a dearth so severe, we’re begging for even a scrap of magical realism. Throughout the past few decades, though, comic books have been putting in the legwork to produce new and interesting fantasy concepts that usually take television and film a few years to catch up on. Shades of Magic Volume 1: The Steel Prince caught my eye for this exact reason; it looked like it could be something entirely new.
I grew up on anime and manga in the '90s, but this was my first time delving into Berserk, and I’m glad I did. It’s a wild, audacious, ridiculous romp. Much of the manga and anime from that era has a very specific feel to it: The tropes were always being leaned into pretty heavily, with bad guys that you couldn’t kill and instead only got bigger when you defeated them, action scenes that were only just barely discernible, and a kooky sidekick whose style didn’t match anything else.
If you're a frequent reader of Fanbase Press, you might remember that I reviewed the first volume of Mob Psycho 100 a few months ago. That strange manga, brought to us by the same artist responsible for the incredible One Punch Man, charmed me with its bizarre narrative and simplistic art style. Well, we're back for round two with Mob Psycho 100 Volume 2.
In The Girl in the Bay, Kathy Sartori wakes up after a traumatic experience to find that many years have passed, seemingly in the blink of an eye. The world around her has changed drastically, while she remains the same. It’s a story that’s been done many times before, from Rip Van Winkle to Flight of the Navigator. But it’s never been done like this. For one thing, the story and the supernatural elements have strong ties to the teachings of Buddhism, which gives the comic a bit of a different flavor than is typical in Western comics.
About a year ago, I reviewed the first issue of an odd, little comic called Zero Jumper about time travel, space travel, and the apocalypse. I’ve been thinking about that comic ever since—those being three of my favorite things, after all. Now, finally, I’ve had the chance to experience the entire story. It’s full of twists and turns, and not always the easiest thing to follow, but it’s a lot of fun nonetheless.
Man-Eaters Volume 1 is a generational landmark in the comic book medium. It was not written and drawn like most comics and graphic novels. Rather, it was a directed and orchestrated collision of story, art, graphic design, poetry, biography, history, and unapologetic agenda. It grabs you from page one and smacks you right in the face. But you can’t help but go back and get smacked again until you finally get it.
Samurai movies are some of my favorites. Watching Kurosawa weave universal tales and Toshiro Mifune cutting down endless numbers of foes, films simply called Kill! wove 1960s-style cinema with breathless fight choreography and riveting stories of characters barely surviving. For me, there was something otherworldly, yet completely relatable, as themes of honor, loyalty, and death were explored in ways that made my imagination spin uncontrollably. And even though there is a strong similarity, I feel more connected to the worlds of the Samurai than I ever could to those in a Western, and that’s closer to my culture. That’s a whole other article, so I digress…
Taking some inspiration from the Tuskegee Airmen, Jeff Lemire takes his world of Black Hammer to World War II, as we follow a group of three black and one Chinese pilots, known as the Black Hammer Squadron, on their final mission against the Axis. Lemire doesn’t do it alone this time; writer Ray Fawkes is the first to co-pilot and takes on the job of telling the story. In addition, three of my personal favorite comic creators hop on board - Matt Kindt (art), Sharlene Kindt (colors), and Marie Enger (letters) - all three of whom worked on a beautiful book and one of my favorites from last year, Dept. H. It’s like Lemire wanted a powerhouse team; he got it, and it shows.