Thursday, October 30, 2008

Love and Rockets and Ranma

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death. This time, reviews, of sorts, of Love & Rockets: New Stories volume one (Fantagraphics, 2008) and Ranma ½ volume two (Viz, 2003).

Though it pains me to say it, this is a little bit nonessential. Jaime Hernandez's fifty-page tale (broken in half, and with a cliffhanger ending) of bizarre superpowered tomfoolery among his world's supporting cast is pretty fun. Basically, Penny Century finally gets her odd wish to become superhuman, and wacky hijinks involving a pair of all-female superteams follow. It's not at all bad, especially when compared to what passes for this sort of action among contemporary comics. His linework and storytelling are clear and easy to follow, and it probably only fails for not providing what I narrowmindedly was hoping to see. But it's incredibly difficult to connect with characters whom you'll likely never meet again, and who have been drawn in such broad strokes, as these characters tend to be.

Gilbert's stories are even harder to love. No longer working within his extended Palomar narrative, he's apparently turned to illustrating his own nightmares. His fifty pages include some genuinely freaky little tales, including one about some zombifying worms that get into packed lunches out in that nebulous, rural Central American somewhere that he draws so well, and another which reimagines Martin & Lewis as unkillable oddballs punching their way across an alien landscape. They're both great storytellers, and there's nothing here that's not worth reading, but these are creators who have each moved me to tears in the past, and there was no chance of that happening here. Recommended for devotees.

Well, at AWA last month, I picked up the next five volumes of Ranma ½, after confirming that my kids liked the first, each for less than the cost of a current newsstand comic. I'll be spacing these out a little myself, although my daughter is impatiently stamping her foot for a seventh volume, which, sorry for her, I don't intend to buy anytime soon.

Anyway, once upon a long, long ago, I picked up the original first collected Japanese edition of Ranma ½ only to conclude this wasn't for me. Not only have I been proven wrong, but had I picked up the second book, I'd have never made that conclusion, because it's incredibly funny. The high point may come towards the end, when Ranma, wearing his female body, gets a gigantic, drama-stopping smooch from some fancypants ice skating dude and returns wearing his male body roaring with anger like somebody out of Kirby's Asgard. This is great stuff; I'm not certain how many of these damn books are going to warrant individual reviews (Ranma ½ vol. 30 is recommended for anybody who read Ranma ½ 1-29...), but I think the series as a whole deserves looking into. Although, I must point out that the greyscale scanning of the sporadic eight-page color sections is pretty poor, even by Viz's standards, and I'd like to see another edition one day which includes the color as it originally appears.

(Originally posted October 30, 2008 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

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