THIS WEEK’S STAFF PICKS

Onwars towards our noble deathsOnward Towards Our Noble Deaths
by Shigeru Mizuki
Drawn & Quarterly

Simon says: The latest in D&Q’s line of translated ‘60s/’70s gekiga (adult manga; literally ‘dramatic pictures’), Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths charts Mizuki’s experiences in the Pacific conflict of World War II.  By turns hilarious and tragic, this is a truly harrowing account of the too-nuts-to-be-true policies of the Japanese army’s higher-ups, and the bonds of friendship forged by the troopers forced to endure such leadership.  A master cartoonist, Mizuki is one of the most lauded mangaka in his native Japan, so it’s a joy to finally have some of his work translated into English.

Special Mention: Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish is hilarious and easily the most bizarre issue of Hellboy to ever see print. Amazing Screw-On Head-ian levels of ‘what the f**k’.

Xmen #535Uncanny X-Men #535
by Kieron Gillen [w], Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson [a]
Marvel

Tom says: Aside from being happy that Uncanny X-Men is a readable comic again, I can now also say I really enjoy Keron Gillen as a writer. This is a ‘pop’ comic in the Warren Ellis sense of the term: big concepts, clear characters and pretty to look at. I don’t think I’ll ever accept the unpicking of Grant Morrison’s run on the X-books, but at least with Cyclops having a character Morrison’s legacy remains partially intact, and that’s largely thanks Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men. While Whedon’s run is criticised for Buffy-izing the X-Men, at least he told fun stories with characters that made sense. This issue heavily references that run, so I look forward to seeing where it’s going.

Unwritten #24The Unwritten #24
by Mike Carey [w], Peter Gross and Al Davison [a]
Vertigo

Liz says: Probably the best thing about The Unwritten is the scope of the concept and the one-off stories and subplots it allows for. To my great delight, this week’s issue follows up on my favorite of these detours: the character of Mr. Bun, A.K.A. Pauly Bruckner, from issue #12. Pauly Bruckner is a man who tread too close to the secrets of Wilson Taylor and was thus imprisoned in a Wind-in-the-Willows-style fictional underworld, humorously trapped in the body of a storybook rabbit. Both the former and current issue chronicle Pauly’s attempts to escape, all while raging, cursing and abusing his simpering animal cohorts. It’s an interlude that serves to flesh out the world of the story, but mostly it’s a rabbit in a waistcoat shouting the F-word at Tig the Talking Hedgehog and Matilda the Mouse. It’s just plain funny, and within The Unwritten it makes perfect sense. Fingers crossed for a mini-series!

Infinite VacationInfinite Vacation #2
by Nick Spencer [w] and Christian Ward [a]
Image Comics

Taylor says: While we were at Kapow! last week, we discussed the inaugural Stan Lee Awards that were held there, and specifically the “Best Publisher” category. Pretty unanimously we chose Image (I forget who got the award), and Infinite Vacation is for me a perfect example of why. Nick Spencer is everywhere right now (Morning Glories, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Iron Man 2.0), and the idea behind Infinite Vacation (of being able to step seamlessly through a smartphone-like device into the lives of your parallel universe selves) is exactly the kind of high-concept metaphor he’s made his name writing, and which comics are uniquely placed to explore. Christian Ward’s art is the perfect compliment to Spencer’s storytelling too, vibrant with intense colour and fluid layouts. I love superhero comics, but this is the kind of conceptual, experimental work that rarely finds its way into a Big Two book, because it is best realised without the burden of convention and continuity those universes bring. While the Big Two find ever bigger (and sometimes better) ways to imperil their most famous heroes, Image, through books like this, focuses on telling original stories in original ways. If you’ve read any of Hickman’s Image work, I reckon you’ll like this. And if you like things that look very very cool, I know you will.

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