In this feature, I ask comic creators that I like a lot to recommend a great comic that they'd like to see spotlighted. They pick the comic and then I write a review of the comic (of course, this runs the risk of them picking a comic that I don't like, but there's so many great comics out there to pick from that I find it hard to believe that that will ever actually happen).
Today's creator is David Lopez, star artist on Captain Marvel, who in the past has launched Fallen Angel with Peter David, worked on Catwoman for years with Will Pfeifer, launched Hawkeye and Mockingbird with Jim McCann and brought Brian Wood into the X-Fold with a number of top-notch X-Men issues. Currently, as noted, he is in the midst of a long run with Kelly Sue DeConnick on Captain Marvel. David's choice was Ken Niimura's recent Image collection, Henshin.
You might recognize Niimura from his work on the Image series I Kill Giants with writer Joe Kelly. This book collects of thirteen short stories written and drawn by Niimura that originally were written in Japanese but are now appearing in English for the first time (the book came out in January). Since the comics appeared in Japanese originally, they are also read in the traditional right-to-left format, so keep that in mind when you check out the sample pages! "Henshin" means "transform" in Japanese, and each of the stories sees a character go through some sort of transformation.
Besides his striking visual style, what David noted to me that he was most impressed by with Niimura's work is his offbeat sensibilities, and that is definitely a standout aspect of the work. The very first story throws you into this weird little world of his. It is about a teenager who moves to Tokyo to stay with her aunt and uncle due to some bullying problems back at home. Her uncle takes her out to lunch and then she quickly finds herself sucked right into her uncle's life of crime, as he pulls off a job while she waits for him in the car - only he has forgotten his gun, leaving it to her to have to take out the angry people chasing after her uncle (they all happened to be dressed as playing cards). She is transformed (theme!!!) into a killer in an instant. That is how weird this comic book is - but in a really good way.
Here is the sample story from the book, Niimura's auto-biographical tale of his love for cats (remember, right to left)...
This story then, hilariously, goes off on a tangent about, well, poop (and the relationship people have with their own toilets).
Niimura never allows a story to stagnate, as his delightful design work keeps the story constantly moving and constantly engaging. What I enjoy the most out of these stories, though, is the HEART behind these weird little tales. One of my favorite tales is of an uptight businessman who misses the last train and is stuck in the city with a free-spirited young woman. Nothing DRAMATIC happens, but the shared experience loosens him up JUUUUST a tad. It's a very endearing story. There's another adorable story involving bullies, with a great twist ending.
Niimura is a charming writer who is an excellent artist. This collection is an absolute delight and you would be well served to pick up a copy.