Sunday, October 24, 2010

Descendants of Darkness. Vol. 1, Yami no matsuei

For the employees of the Summons Department in the Ministry of Hades, dealing with death is an everyday job. When someone who is suppose to die doesn't, it is their job to find out what went wrong and sort it out. Asato Tsuzuki seems like a slacking, careless guy to his new partner, Asuka, but as they start investigating a few odd cases he discovers that there is more to him than meets the eye.

Although certainly entertaining, this manga has nothing that really stood out in the first book. Each chapter felt isolated, there was not even a hinted plot arc, which leaves me wondering what the rest of the series could consist of. Is it all just a "case of the week" approach? That is the feeling I get, and the characters simply aren't strong enough to hold my interest for more of this. I did think the translation was excellent, there was only spot that seemed drastically "off" in terms of grammar and word use.

The art is basic, standard imported manga. The character designs and style decisions are pretty much the same as a hundred other horror/mystery stories. There is no real sense of the author having her own flair, the whole story seemed formulaic. The panel layout is clear and simple, but rather uninteresting.

This is an entertaining read if you have a little time to waste, but don't go in expecting a masterpiece.

3 Stars

Kitty Goes to Washington

As the first known celebrity werewolf, Kitty's life has been a little nutty. It just gets worse when the US Senate decides to take the recent uncovering of the supernatural seriously and sets up a hearing where they want her to testify. Kitty has always made it a point to stay a radio host and not let her picture go public, but she will be appearing on national TV. When she shows up in D.C. the vampire mistress of the city makes Kitty stay with her. Kitty is initially uncomfortable with the arrangement, but a place protected by vampiric security turns out to be rather handy; as the rest of the time she is dodging crazy tabloid reporters and trying to avoid getting into trouble with the conservatives who want to start a modern witch-hunt aimed at the supernatural community.

I am not usually a fan of modern paranormal fiction, but I am very fond of this series. Kitty is a great character and actually develops throughout the series, which is rare in this genre. The witty, often sarcastic voice the author writes Kitty in makes for a fun read. I also enjoy many of the supporting characters, and those that reoccur experience the same character growth as the main character. I have read and re-read this a lot of times, and it still makes me laugh.

As a side note, I find it impossible to read Alette's character and not picture Olivia Williams as her. Alette's brisk, no-nonsense attitude paired with a serious, elegant air reminds me of Williams very much.

4 Stars


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Serenity: Those Left Behind

In a harshly regulated future universe first pictured in the TV show Firefly, there are always a few rebels. One run-down little transport ship named Serenity has a crew comprised of mercenaries, thieves, fugitives and an elegant prostitute who is the only one who makes her living legally. This is the group readers follow on heists and general trouble-making. This comic helps to explain a few of the loose ends that come with a canceled TV show, while throwing a few more mysteries at its fans.

I love Firefly. I tend to curse in accented Mandarin, spontaneously re-enact or recite scenes with friends and family, and sometimes drawl Broad Browncoat so badly that I have been asked if I come from down south because it is the closest real dialect to the slang featured in the show. I mention these facts because it means I am a very biased reviewer when I say that this is an excellent comic.

I have been very disappointed by most comics that are based on a TV show. The mediums are very different and the "feel" of the show is almost always lost. Not so in this case, this still feels like the 'Verse fans know and (obsessively) love. There are some things lost; readers will find a lack of striking scenery, gritty "wild west" styling seems to mostly be abandoned in favor of a harder sci-fi story and the comic layout feels rushed and crammed, even a touch claustrophobic. The art is some of the highest quality I have seen in American comics, from the expressive, yet technically solid line art to the well-balanced colorization. Characters are instantly recognizable and the dialogue is spot-on.

This is definitely a book no Browncoat should pass up.

5 Stars



Sethe escaped slavery, but it left heavy scars on her body and mind. All the evils that she thought she had put from her mind come back with the arrival of a man from her past and the sudden appearance of a young woman named Beloved. Sethe struggles to figure out what to do with herself and those around her, without succumbing to the madness she has experienced before.

This book felt very fragmented and scattered, perhaps this is an attempt to show Sethe's confused state of mind, but it makes it hard for the reader to follow what is going on. The characters felt inconsistent and I was often confused by what the relationships were between them. The writing is solid, if occasionally sliding t'wards purple prose.

I admire what the author was trying to do, and she wrote something that is very powerful at points, but the scattered feeling of the overall book detracts from her message.


3 Stars

The Secret Life of Bees

Lily Owens' mother died when she was four and she has been raised by a violent father and their hired help; mostly Rosaleen, a strong-willed black woman who is determined not to let the racists in their town stop her from doing what she has a right to. This attitude leads her to fight back against the town's 3 deepest racists, and she ends up badly beaten and in jail. Lily decides she's had enough, springs Rosaleen, and they set off to a town whose name is written on one of the few belongings Lily has of her mother's. They are taken in by three beekeeping sisters and Lily learns not just about beekeeping, but about what it means to have a family.

I devoured this book in a couple hours. Once I started I just couldn't put it down, the characters had such a hold on me. They seemed so real and fleshed-out, like people who actually might exist. The writing was graceful and unobtrusive, a smooth flow of words that conveyed information clearly without being wordy.

5 Stars