Welcome to Best of 7, our new weekly wrap-up post here at Robot 6. Each Sunday we’ll talk about, as it says above, “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out on Wednesday.
So without further ado, let’s get to it …
350 Million One Piece fans can’t be wrong
Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece, a whacked-out tale of Monkey D. Luffy and his pirate crew, is the top-selling manga in Japan and does pretty well in the U.S., too. A few weeks ago, publisher Shueisha took out ads in the New York Times, the Taiwan paper China Daily and numerous Japanese papers, celebrating the series reaching 345 million volumes in print (300 million in Japan, 45 million everywhere else). In an article by Roland Kelts, Oda explains that his manga’s popularity stems from his short attention span: “The thing is, I get bored easily,” he said. “So if my manga was just about the action, or comedy, or tear-jerking moments, I would get bored. I change the style of the series to keep up my motivation to draw.” After several years of plummeting sales in the U.S., the manga industry seems to have turned around this year, and seeing Luffy splayed across a whole page of the New York Times has to be a morale booster for a lot of manga fans. (Brigid Alverson)
comiXology is in the giving mood
For the second year, comiXology is running a special holiday promotion of giving away one free digital comic a day Dec. 9-20. Yes, it’s the return of 12 Days of Free Comics, which is easily 10 times better than any lord, regardless of his leaping abilities.
Each day, comiXology unveils the mystery comic on their Tumblr and then we have 24 hours to download it, read it and share it with others. Then, it’s on to the next one. Part of the fun is seeing what comics are picked. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman #13, the first part of the “Death of the Family” event, kicked off the fun, but it’s not all superheroes. In fact, everything since that first day has dabbled in sci-fi, fantasy, horror, comedy and more – Greg Rucka’s and Michael Lark’s excellent Lazarus #1, and Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s unexpected sorta-zombie series Revival #1 from Image Comics; Thom Zahler’s smile-inducing My Little Pony one-shot starring Twilight Sparkle, and the first issue of Duane Swierczynski and Nelson Daniel’s Stateside relaunch of Judge Dredd from IDW Publishing, and the new Red Sonja series by Gail Simone and Walter Geovani from Dynamite Entertainment.
I hope comiXology keeps this tradition. It’s a smart way to get visitors of the app or website a reason to come back every day. Such curated promotions are also a key strategy to guiding new readers to comics they may have missed when they originally came out a year or two ago. And obviously the hope is that if you like the first issue, you’ll pay for the next issue in the series. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go download today’s free comic! (Corey Blake)
Godland comes to a close
Given the various economic, editorial and other external factors constantly weighing in on the creator of any comical book series, It’s always nice to see when a particular series is able to reach a satisfactory conclusion, and even better if that conclusion matches the original intent of the authors, even if it takes an awfully long time to reach that appointed end. Thus, I was happy to see Godland, Joe Casey and Tom Scioli’s mash note to the cosmic-spanning, pop philosophy type of comics exuded by the likes of Jack Kirby, Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart in the 1970s, reach its final chapter. This was a series that always combined breathless high-minded talk of the interconnectedness of all living matter, the next stage of human evolution and general trippy notions of what lies beyond our general conception with fart jokes and references to A Different World, and I was happy to see that constant whiplash motion between high and low remained right to the end.
The story speeds ahead a hundred years to look at how mankind has progressed since the actions of Adam Archer and friends, and, indeed, enough time had passed since the last issue that I needed a refresher course to remind myself what exactly had happened the last time around. But never mind that: I’m grateful that Casey and Scoli were able to reach a the (I assume) conclusion they wanted, even if it couldn’t be on the sort of timetable that would appease many readers, and I look forward to reading the entire series in one big cosmic chunk. (Chris Mautner)
There’s something funny about Superior Foes of Spider-Man
In a week that saw the release of several great monthly reads (including Avengers A.I. #7, Astro City #7, and Lazarus #5), it was hard for me to single out my favorite release. But after some consideration, the humor of The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #6 won the day.
Some days you get a comic that attempts humor either visually or verbally, but rarely are they successful on both counts. In fact quite often, in attempting some creators fail on both counts as well as derailing the narrative. As much as I loved Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright’s Quantum and Woody run, there were times where the narrative just fell flat, distracted by the need to serve the comedy more than the story.
Superior Foes is a book that delivers on both comedy and storytelling fronts. Nick Spencer’s pacing of the story facilitates some damn fine surprises and cliffhangers throughout the series, this issue being no exception. Spencer’s concept of a portrait of Victor Van Doom sans mask is paying off with various dividends. I am absolutely astonished at how outlandishly absurd artist Steve Lieber gets with some of the visual gags. My only question is, in one scene is Doom shown wearing polka dot boxers or pajamas? That’s just one hilarious bit.
How Spencer conceived to have Boomerang recount a Doom story and tell it as Doom saying “Doom did…what?” may be my favorite comic dialogue of 2013. (Tim O’Shea)
Dark Horse announces they will publish Grip
Gilbert Hernandez has had a pretty stellar year in terms of output, what with the release of Marble Season, Maria M, Children of Palomar and Julio’s Day, to say nothing of various Love and Rockets collections. So it seems fitting somehow that 2013 should end with the news that Dark Horse will be collecting one of the only (indeed, by my meager recollection [and if you don’t count Birds of Prey] the only) works by to have fallen by the wayside, Grip.
True, this series, originally serialized by Vertigo, doesn’t have the breadth or depth of Hernandez’s Palomar stories or the tight, surreal groove of some of his more recent noir pieces, but it’s chock full of strange and delightful characters, intriguing plot devices (what if you could become someone else by literally wearing their skin?) and general zaniness. And the good news is it all holds up really well. For those who missed out the first time around, this release will be like another brand-new Gilbert Hernandez story for the coming year. Nothing wrong with that. (Chris Mautner)
John Byrne treks to Strange New Worlds
Since 2011, IDW’s Star Trek series has charted the voyages of the starship Enterprise as seen through the flaring lenses of J.J. Abrams and company. However, this week’s Star Trek Annual 2013 went retro in more ways than one. Writer/artist John Byrne crafted a sequel to “Where No Man Has Gone Before” — the episode which introduced James T. Kirk — entirely out of screenshots from the classic series. Part experiment, part homage to the pre-videotape “Fotonovels” of the 1970s, its photorealism captured the feel of a Star Trek whose seventy-nine episodes depended on the kindnesses of syndicated TV schedules and dedicated fans. Naturally, seeing Byrne’s dialogue coming from William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and guest star Gary Lockwood helped Byrne’s efforts, but considering that he’s consistently done good Trek work for IDW, that’s not surprising. (Tom Bondurant)
Emily Carroll heads Through the Woods and into print
This week brought news on her print collection, which now has a title and release date — Through the Woods, published by McElderry Books in July of 2014. The collection will feature “His Face All Red” as well as four other stories that will no doubt haunt you long after reading them. (JK Parkin)
Slayground by Darwyn Cooke hits the streets
I haven’t had a chance to read Darwyn Cooke’s latest adaptation of one of Richard Stark/Donald Westlake’s Parker books, but based on his last two adaptations and this preview, I’m guessing it will be one of the best books of the year. Cooke has a perfect ability to mimic the look and feel of magazine and advertising art of the Parker era (1963 or so), and he layers on that a sophisticated storytelling sensibility that makes these graphic novels really crackle with life. (Brigid Alverson)