Review: Gantz Vol 15 by Hiroya Oku

 

Title: Gantz Vol 15

Author: Hiroya Oku

Publisher: Dark Horse

ISBN: 978-1595826626

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Gantz is getting absolutely intense! Our protagonist, the eternally awkward otaku boy named Kei, has hunted a bevy of odd and dangerous aliens living in Japan. The Onion Alien was strange enough, but then there were the dinosaur aliens and eventually some vampires who might not be aliens at all. Gantz moves along at a furious pace, drowning readers in blood and violence, but then holds back for a few tender (and sometimes excessively sexy) moments here and there. It’s a crazy ride so far, a guilty pleasure for many readers. See who Kei is told to hunt next! It will certainly be a surprise.

Review:

I haven’t picked up a volume of Gantz in a while, and since I had a free weekend with the New Year’s break from work, I eagerly dove into a few manga series that I have allowed myself to get behind on. I couldn’t think of a better time to catch up, so Gantz was one of the first ones I picked up.

I find this series enjoyable when the hapless characters are trapped in the room, about to be sent off on another mission.  It’s exciting, tense, and explosive once the hunt begins.  The rest of it, I can do without.  The story slips into the realm of ridiculousness whenever Kei is doing something other than blasting aliens to tiny, bloody bits.  I just don’t find him an interesting character, and I can’t relate to his teenage boy issues.  I don’t care if he gets his rocks off or not, and I find his preoccupation with ginormous breasts tedious.  So I remind myself, yet again, that the series isn’t really intended for me, and I flip pages as quickly as I can to get back to the stuff that I like – all of the mindless violence and gore.  Yeah, go figure.

In this volume, Kei is blundering through his personal relationships yet again.  He has gone off to see Reika behind Tae’s back, not thinking that a popular idol like Reika would be stalked by paparazzi.  When their picture appears in the paper, he is soon the talk of his school, and quiet, timid Tae discovers his indiscretion.  At least he had the decency to feel guilty for hurting her feelings.  When she is caught up in his next mission, Kei worries that she will get killed if she keeps hanging out with him, so he is even more determined to break up with her.  Too bad that stupid black ball isn’t going to let that happen.

I suffered through the first half of this volume, but the ending had me all caught up in the action again.  Argh!  It’s insidious!  I don’t want to like Gantz, but all of that over the top destruction keeps me coming back for more.  I have only one more volume in reserve, so hopefully Rightstuf will have a Dark Horse studio sale soon…

Grade: B- for the first half of the book

  B+ for the rest of the book

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Gantz Vol 14 by Hiroya Oku

 

Title: Gantz Vol 14

Author: Hiroya Oku

Publisher: Dark Horse

ISBN: 978-1595825988

For Readers 18+ Only!

 

Most Definitely Does Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Our alien-hunting gang meets a vampire gang who can grow samurai swords from their hands! Once again, Hiroya Oku is pushing the envelope with his crazy manga Gantz! And to add to it, these vampire yakuza guys might not even be aliens! This isn’t a mission. These guys seem to know who is working for Gantz, and are coming after them. On the streets where they work and live. In the daylight. All of a sudden the wall between everyday humanity and Gantz’s nighttime, extradimensional hunts is crumbling. What will Kei and the others do? Can they regenerate when they’re injured outside of a mission? Find out!

Review:

WTF?!  What is going on in my favorite manga series of gratuitous violence and barely any plot?  I have no idea, but the danger is on an upswing for Kurono.  Again!  You’d think that battling a ginormous alien dinosaur without his suit – and defeating it- would be hard to top in terms of a near death experiences (as well as triggering an involuntary bowel moment) but no!  NO!  There are even worse things in store for Kei!!  What? What?? There are now vampires!  Vampires in the world of Gantz!  These are not those sparkly pretty boy pushovers from a certain popular YA paranormal series either.  These are big, bad, deadly monsters that walk the streets during both the day and the night, and they have a great big grudge against the saps that Gantz has recruited to be the playthings for a bunch of alien sickos.

So, Kei doesn’t rub me the wrong way anymore – falling in love with Tae has made him finally think about someone other than himself, and that’s a good thing.  Now I care about whether he gets bloodily slaughtered in each new mission.  Izumi – he’s a different story.  While I don’t like the big adrenaline junky, I certainly do enjoy watching him get his moves on.  He is poetry in motion with that sword of his, and he doesn’t care who he uses it on.  Aliens, vampires, comrades in arms.  He also sees green every time he looks in Kei’s direction.  How can the little guy score so much higher during alien combat missions?  It just grates on Izumi’s nerves.  Ha, serves you right, you big jerk.  Maybe when you start to care about others you’ll finally wipe the floor with Kei’s battle suit.

I am most appalled with myself for enjoying this series as much as I do.  It really has no plot to speak of, and it celebrates wanton death and destruction.  But so, too, do the big summer blockbusters.  Gantz just has bigger boobs to go along with the one-dimensional, brainless females who drift in and out of Kei’s life.   Each new wrinkle in the barely there plot is really just another excuse for more bloodshed and even more flying body parts.  I don’t even want to contemplate overly long on any one aspect of the series, because I’m afraid it will ruin the reading experience for me.   If you enjoy over the top action and adventure, this is the series for you.  Just make sure you enjoy it for what it is – the summer blockbuster of manga.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Troublemaker Vol 2 (Graphic Novel) by Janet & Alex Evanovich

 

Title: Troublemaker Vol 2

Author: Janet & Alex Evanovich

Art: Joelle Jones

Publisher: Dark Horse

ISBN: 978-1595825735

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

There’s no smooth sailing for Alex Barnaby and Sam Hooker in the second volume of bestselling author Janet Evanovich’s graphic-novel adventure, Troublemaker. Barnaby, Hooker, Rosa, Felicia, and Beans the St. Bernard set sail to the Florida Keys in order to find the wooden body of Baron Samedi that matches their recently acquired – and stolen – wooden hand. But in the world of petro voodoo a hand for a hand and a Baron for a boat is fair play. When the Happy Hooker disappears from its mooring in the Keys, Barnaby and Hooker have to find a way back to Miami with the stolen body of Baron Samedi. Ransom notes for the Happy Hooker, a sack of snakes, and a ticked-off chicken, leave only one place safe enough to hide a body… Hooker’s mom’s house – a situation that makes the sack of snakes look like chump change.

Review:

What a fun read!  I enjoyed the second volume of Troublemaker better than the first, and I really liked the first one!  I still feel the price point is a bit high for the low page count, but at least the book is well put together, with a sturdy cover and thick, glossy pages. 

Hooker is having a really, really bad day.  Nitro has stolen his baby, the Happy Hooker, a 64 foot boat.  If Barnaby and Hooker hand over the statue of the Baron, Nitro will give the boat back.  Maybe.  That’s what he says, at any rate, but can you really trust a guy who steals your boat, sets his posse on you, and leaves an enraged chicken in your car?  Probably not…

The one-liners zip through the panels, and the action is non-stop.  Barnaby and Hooker are propelled from one situation to the next with lightning speed, and though most are comical and absurd rather than life-threatening, I enjoyed my journey with them.  They get out of scrapes with humor and good luck, rather than through brains or brawn.  The scene with the snakes shed a lot of light on their relationship for me – Hooker might be a race-car driver, defying death with every race, but it’s Barnaby who has the pluck and the courage to get them out of tense situations.  Yup, that girl will do anything for a pair of designer shoes.

The art and the snappy dialog made the book for me, yet again.  The plot is really just a feeble excuse for the gang to get together and to get into a load of trouble, but the illustrations bring the story to life.  Some of the events are rather random, but the art keeps them fresh and amusing.

If you are a Janet Evanovich fan, be aware that this is a comic book.  If you are new to comics, check both volumes of Troublemaker out of your local library and give the books a spin.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised.   If you already enjoy graphic novels, this is a funny, brainless romp with bright, vivid illustrations that will keep you turning the pages.

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Gantz Vol 13 by Hiroya Oku

 

Title: Gantz Vol 13

Author: Hiroya Oku

Publisher: Dark Horse

ISBN: 978-1595825872

For Mature Readers

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Dinosaurs. Seriously, can the frantic world of Gantz get any more scary? How about a giant doughboy with crazy fangs and a strange outie bellybutton? Yeah, it’s not just scary; it’s a very strange world for Kei and whomever is unlucky enough to die when Gantz is gathering random people and animals for a new mission. At least this time the Gantz crew have a sweet new weapon! It’s an awesome uni-motorcycle thing! And one of the characters uses a massive space samurai sword. It’s Gantz! And it’s totally rad.

Review:

I am so happy to start my New Year reading with a new volume of Gantz.  Once again, developments are sadly lacking on the plot front, but who cares?  Kei has to duke it out with a bunch of dinosaurs.  Like, freaking huge, tail whipping, foot stomping, I’m going to crush the life right out of you dinosaurs.  How can you not get caught up in the excitement of that??

This entire volume kicks dino butt!  Kei doesn’t even have his suit, and he’s dashing into one razor-toothed fray after another!  He even grows a few, if you know what I mean, and tries to defend other people!  What is going on?  Is Kei actually experiencing a flash of character growth?  Wow!  I never thought that would happen, especially when he’s about to be skewered on a ton of T-Rex teeth.  And wait!  Hold the phone!!  He even goes out of his way to protect the weak!  My heart can’t take shocks like this!

Wanton bloodshed and severed body parts have never been so much fun.  This series is not for the faint of heart, but it is a blast if you enjoy over top action and adventure.  It’s a very quick read which will have you turning the pages non-stop right to the end.  Then you will say, “Crap!!!!  How does he get out of this mess??”  But, just like me, you will have to wait until the next volume hits book stores to find out.  ARGH!!!!!

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Bride of the Water God Vol 6 by Mi-Kyung Yun

 

Title: Bride of the Water God Vol 6

Author: Mi-Kyung Yun

Publisher: Dark Horse

ISBN: 978-1595826053

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

At the start of this series, Soah was willing to sacrifice her life to the feared god Habaek to save her drought-stricken village on Earth. However, she wasn’t killed by the powerful Water God – she was rescued and taken to the magical kingdom of Suguk. Once there, she met moody gods of the elements and a mysterious husband who took her as his bride – but then spurned her. While Habaek yearns to treat Soah as a proper husband would, he’s cursed to live in the form of a little boy during the day, only reverting to his true adult self at night. Trying to keep this strange secret from Soah, he hides behind the fake identity of "Mui" at night, when he competes with other unusual gods for her attention. Will this be the volume in which the Water God finally spills the truth to Soah – or will other conspiring, jealous gods succeed in driving a permanent wedge between him and his human bride? Cursed and pursued by an unknown, shape-shifting tormentor, Habaek is also led to believe that his previous human bride is still alive!

Gah!!  Just when I think Soah is going to catch a break, the spiteful gods of Suguk conspire against her.  It has got to suck to be a powerless human surrounded by a palace full of bored, scheming immortals.  Soah is so far out of her league that I despair at her ever getting together with her Water God. And Habaek – you’re the Water God.  The Water GOD!  Surely there is something you can do to help yourself find happiness.  No, instead, all you do is mope around and let everyone else push you around, as they all fight to see who can take advantage of you the most!  Gah!!! Backbone!  You need a backbone!

I love this series, but it makes me so mad at times!  Soah, open your eyes!  There are times that I think she is so hopelessly clueless that she will never figure out the truth about Mui and Habaek.  It has me tearing out my hair!  Dear me!  This series certainly gets an emotional reaction out of me, and that’s why I love it so.  In addition to those beautiful, breathtaking illustrations, the story is so full of twists and turns, schemes and plots that I can’t stop reading each new volumes once I start.  The plot is occasionally muddled and confusing, but the story presentation is so much better than it was in the beginning volumes.

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Ghost Talker’s Daydream Vol 4 by Saki & Sankichi Manga Review

 

Title: Ghost Talker’s Daydream Vol 4

Authors: Okuse Saki & Meguro Sankichi

Publisher: Dark Horse

ISBN: 9781595822604

For Mature Audiences

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

If having hallucinations is scary, then seeing them at school would be terrifying. But when the hallucinations talk back to you, that’s the kind of fright you’ve come to expect from the world of Ghost Talker’s Daydream. Come join Saiki Misaki, the albino dominatrix necromancer, as she jumps head-first into another supernatural mystery. This time around the case becomes more personal, as the power that gives Saiki the ability to see and talk to the dead is the very thing terrorizing her client. Prepare yourself for an anything-but-typical "speaks to ghosts" manga that will blow you away with beautiful and sensual art coupled with a terrifying story. Dark Horse Manga continues to deliver top-notch Japanese horror manga at its finest. From writer Saki Okuse (Twilight of the Dark Master) and artist Sankichi Meguro.

I am always reluctant to pick up a series in mid-stream, because it’s so hard to connect with the characters and the plot.  Since I received this out of the blue, I decided to give it a try, mainly because it’s the season for creepy reads, and it seemed to fit that bill to a T.  I have very mixed feelings about this now, and I am going to have to track down the earlier volumes to see what I missed.

Ghost Talker’s Daydream reminds me a little bit of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.  This one is strictly for grown-ups, due to the nudity, a few grotesquely bloated corpses, and one of the main character’s disturbing dreams.  Saiki is away at a hot spring, leaving Kadotake to deal with her creepy replacement.  Ai and Mitsuru are forced to deal with a double suicide, and an overly gung-ho detective who is determined to get to the bottom of the deaths.  Threatening messages from YUO have Ai and Mitsuru on the defensive, and it seems as though  they are slated to be the next suicide victims.

The plot is complex, and I did get lost at the beginning, because I didn’t know who the characters were and I didn’t understand their relationships with each other. By the end of the volume, I think I was on pretty good footing, though, and I found an intriguingly dark mystery with ghosts and some very flawed protagonists.  Mitsuru, especially, gets a raised eyebrow, and reading this volume didn’t help me to understand him or his complicated feelings for either his sister or Saiki.  I got the sense that he is one troubled teen, and he has many uncomfortable issues to work through, and I’ll leave it at that. 

Ai has ghost talker abilities, but they aren’t fully developed, and without Saiki to help her, she quickly falls prey to an unscrupulous police detective.   He will do anything to solve his case, including putting Ai at risk.  I found this storyline gripping, because you are left with the inkling that Mitsuru and Ai are going to be grave danger, very quickly.

The art is very detailed, with fine lines and complex backgrounds.  I like how Sankichi uses shading to build on suspense. 

I found this volume to be a very intriguing, but a lack of familiarity with the characters and the plot did hamper my enjoyment of the book.  You have to start somewhere, though, right?

Grade: B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Gantz Vol 12 by Hiroya Oku Manga Review

 

Title: Gantz Vol 12

Author: Hiroya Oku

Publisher:  Dark Horse

ISBN: 978-1595825261

For Mature Audiences

 

May Contain Spoilers

Izumi finally gets his wish, and ends up back in the apartment, along with all of his revived shooting victims.  Kei tags along against his will, and it’s off to fight another batch of aliens.  This time they are huge dinosaurs with gigantic teeth that chomp, big tails that smash, and monstrous feet that stomp.  Oh, did I mention that Kei doesn’t have his suit?  Yeah, bad times are ahead for Kei, a guy who has managed to die not once, but twice, and end up in the room with the cryptic sphere both times.

Once again, a book with so little plot somehow keeps me on the edge of my seat with an endless tide of violence and suspense.  The little group of cannon fodder seems a little stupider than normal, but their lack of intelligence makes for even more senseless deaths and carnage.  Half of the group seems to die before the aliens even make an appearance, and then they are like ducks in a shooting gallery.  Bye bye, useless dinosaur kibble.  Get out of the way so the real warriors can step up and kick some raptor ass. 

If you are new to the world of Gantz, don’t worry too much about what happened in previous volumes.  There isn’t much of a plot, but there is a wealth of tense action, complete with flying body parts and exploding heads.  You can expect rivers of blood, gun fights, flashing swords, and deadly martial artists.  Mostly, though, there are lots of stupid people getting munched on by monsters. 

The cover for this volume is one of my favorites.  Izumi actually looks gallant has he wields his sword, and Kei looks heroic.  While Izumi is the exact opposite of chivalrous, I  think that Kei is actually becoming, I hate to say it, valiant.  Has there actually been some character development in the series?? 

Brainless fun doesn’t get much better than this. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites by Dorkin & Thompson Graphic Novel Review

 

Title: Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites

Authors: Evan Dorkin & Jill Thompson

Publisher:  Dark Horse

ISBN: 978-1595825131

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Welcome to Burden Hill-a picturesque little town adorned with white picket fences and green, green grass, home to a unique team of paranormal investigators. Beneath this shiny exterior, Burden Hill harbors dark and sinister secrets, and it’s up to a heroic gang of dogs-and one cat-to protect the town from the evil forces at work. These are the Beasts of Burden Hill-Pugs, Ace, Jack, Whitey, Red and the Orphan-whose early experiences with the paranormal (including a haunted doghouse, a witches’ coven, and a pack of canine zombies) have led them to become members of the Wise Dog Society, official animal agents sworn to protect their town from evil. This turns out to be no easy task, as they soon encounter demonic cannibal frogs, tortured spirits, a secret rat society, and a bizarre and deadly resurrection in the Burden Hill cemetery-events which lead to fear and heartbreak as our four-legged heroes discover that the evil within Burden Hill is growing and on the move. Can our heroes overcome these supernatural menaces? Can evil be bested by a paranormal team that doesn’t have hands? And even more importantly, will Pugs ever shut the hell up?

This was very pleasant surprise.  Since I am incredibly sappy when it comes to stories about animals, I was a little hesitant to read Beasts of Burden.  I mean, look at the cover!  All of the dogs, and even the lone cat, look terrified!  There are skeletons and ghosts surrounding them, and even a big, scary monster lurking behind them.  Not to mention frogs and rats, critters that I normally like.  Not so much in this book, though!

The first thing that jumped out at me was the difference in all of the personalities of the main cast, which is comprised of a bunch of neighborhood dogs and their cat friend, The Orphan.  Each of the animals is a unique individual, with a very distinct way of thinking and acting.  Their personalities play off of each other, building suspense and also adding humor to the occasionally dark storylines.  I love how even when they are terrified and know that they are heading into trouble, they always stick together.  They work together to protect their own, even when they acknowledge and in most cases, complain about what a stupid thing they are about to do.  I love these guys and the lengths they are willing to go to to protect their turf, even against really, really scary monsters.  Like zombies.  That’s pretty darn brave, especially for a Pug!

The chapters are fairly episodic, but each one draws the reader in, escalates the danger level, and then concludes with a bang.  Usually a big bang.  The action is intense, the emotions are raw, and there were several times while I was reading this that I had to put it down and take a break from the supernatural dangers that threaten to overcome the defenders of peace in their neighborhood.  I was pleasantly surprised to find one thing that I hadn’t really expected; a great deal of depth to go hand in hand with the clever dialog and swift pacing.

Jill Thompson’s art is vibrant and the watercolors effortlessly bring the cast to life.  Her notebook, which is included after the story, discusses the process that into creating the illustrations.  That was a treat.

This book is gorgeous.  The hardcover book is solidly put together, and the interior pages thick and glossy.  That’s a good thing, because you will find yourself leaving through the book more than a few times after you finish reading it.  In addition to a compelling collection of paranormal adventures, Beasts of Burden is beautiful both inside and out. 

Grade:  A

Review copy obtained from publisher