Manga Friday: Three Books from CMX
Just last week, a secret package of photocopied pages, marked "CONFIDENTIAL — DO NOT REPRODUCE" landed on my desk. Included were three books from DC’s newish manga imprint, CMX, from across the range of their titles. And so, through great personal travail — and with the assistance of someone at DC who must remain nameless, since there was no cover letter — here are the first ComicMix reviews of CMX books…
(Exciting, isn’t it?)
These are all forthcoming books, hitting stores starting in late September. So you can think of this review as a teaser, if you want.
by Igura Sugimoto
DC Comics/CMX, October 2008, $12.99
This is the fourth and final volume of this Mature-readers series, so I’m going to be doing a bit of guessing about the beginnings that led to this ending. There’s a young woman named Aiko who’s being held prisoner by the requisite nasty corporation, Atheos. The head of Atheos is completely insane, and wants to turn Aiko into a goddess who will destroy the entire human race and create a new world just for him.
This is a not-impossible dream, since Aiko is a "second-generation chimera," a human with some sort of ill-defined powers — she seems to spead out her own flesh into shields and weapons, or maybe that’s supposed to be energy — who is also the daughter of people who also secretly had those powers. Also, Atheos has been involved, somehow, in turning people into chimera, which is nasty and unpleasant, even leaving aside the fact that chimera tend to go crazy and kill lots of people.
There are other bad guys — as usual, there are factions and intrigue within Atheos, and someone on the good guy’s side turns out to have worked for them long ago, before he turned good.
And then, on the side of goodness, is Agent Sudo, who I think has some connection to the government, and was originally assigned to either investigate Aiko or keep her safe. (Since she’s now a captive of the evil corporation, I predict Sano will have a tough time at his next annual review.)
Sudo and an ally break into the supersecret Atheos base, and then all hell breaks loose — that’s my synopsis of this volume in a nutshell. Lots of people shoot each other, and Aiko uses her powers to do whatever it is she does. Many of the characters also emote at length, usually about what they think the world should be (or is) and about how much they love and/or hate each other. It’s all very bloody and tense.
Since I read this as a photocopy, I can’t really judge the art — it looks pretty good here, but the reproduction isn’t what it could be, so some things that didn’t quite make sense to me will probably be clear in the final book. (And that will be true for the next two books as well, though I won’t mention it again.)
So that leaves me with critiquing the story — which mostly means wondering why so many manga are about creepy biological changes, created monstrosities, scientific experiments running out of control, and pure Akira-like explosions of pululating flesh. There’s scope for at least one doctoral dissertation on "Fear and Hatred of the Body in Manga and Anime," but I’m not going to be the one to write it. If you happen to be working on one, you’ll want to check out Variante. If not, you still might like this, particularly if you’re old enough and still enjoy squicky semi-science-fictional horror with lots of body issues.
by Sanae Kana
DC Comics/CMX, October 2008, $9.99
I don’t have a cover with type on it to share with you, but the thumbnail here is what the art for the cover of this book looks like. So just imagine the words "Classical Medley" and the author’s name plastered prominently across that, and you’ll have an idea what the book will look like.
If Variante is for a sullen, depressive college student — and I’d say that it is — Classical Medley is for that guy’s much younger, happier kid sister. It has some drama and action, and even danger, but it’s very cute.
In the fantasy land of Classical, young Prince Soprano is protected by his almost-as-young bodyguard Alto, who is one of the "Quintet," the elite five warriors of this land. Every hundred years, the rulers of Classical have to recast a spell that uses the power of Diritta (good) to seal away Sinistra (evil). But somehing goes wrong this time, Soprano’s dad the king is possessed by evil, and Alto ends up with a chunk of Dritta embedded in his hand. (Which, it seems, grants him great but unexpected powers for fighting, and probably other things if it’s useful to the plot.)
Alto and Soprano flee, closely pursued by the rest of the Quintet. The evil Sinistra is making plans to gather the other four pieces of itself, and then, presumably, to rule the world forever in utter darkness and evil. The good guys are, first, fleeing for their lives, but are also in pursuit of Soprano’s older brother, the rightful heir, who they hope will help them put everything right.
There’ll be one more volume, according to the teaser at the end, and I’d bet any sum of money that the good guys in by the end of that one.
Classical Medley is appropriate for nearly all ages, and younger audiences will be less likely to question all of the musical terms — up to and including a minor character named Klezmer — that do form a thematic whole but don’t seem to mean anything. Classical Medley is a cute, light adventure story for younger readers, and girls in particular. (I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Alto — or someone else — turned out to secretly be a girl, either.)
Story by Yasutaka Tsutsui; Illustrated by Gaku Tsugano
DC Comics/CMX, September 2008, $9.99
Kazuko is an ordinary high shcool girl — except, in the course of this story, she learns that she can travel through time into the past, and change things. In best "A Sound of Thunder" fashion, though, things never quite work out the way she wants them to.
I should underscore here the "ordinary high school girl" part, above — Kazuko doesn’t even think about changing world history or anything like that. Her first trip back in time is to see her grandmother one last time before the older woman died, a few years back. And the other trips are similarly for personal, emotional reasons — she is a teeanger, with the emotional highs and lows of one.
There’s a supporting cast as well, but they’re mostly there to highten Kazuko’s emotional life — there’s her best girlfriend, who’s more mature; there’s the boy who secretly likes her but will never say so; and so forth. The best way I can place Girl Who Runs Through Time is that if you’re the kind of reader who says "Hey, a time-travel story! Cool," this is probably not the manga for you.
If, instead, you think about all of the little things that you’d want to relive or change in your own life — that time last week you want to do over, or someone you miss from a few years back — Girl Who Runs Through Time might be just right.
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
Publishers who would like their books to be reviewed at ComicMix should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Andrew Wheeler directly at acwheele (at) optonline (dot) net.