Yeah… in spite of all the different writers putting their stamp on this character later - and I loved many of those interpretations - Constantine really never felt as much himself as he did back then.
So a few days ago I finished paying a large sum of money to my LCS, and they gave me this cardboard box in return
And it contained this cardboard box:
And I thought it might be cool to review each volume of Akira, as it’s one of my favourite comics. With that in mind:
Akira, book 1: Tetsuo
I’m not sure how much of the story I need to summarise for those of you at the back not paying attention, so here’s a quick précis: in 1982, a new kind of bomb was dropped on Tokyo, rapidly precipitating World War III, in which many major cities of the world were devastated. By 2019, Neo-Tokyo has risen from the ashes of the old city, growing around the crater of the old bomb explosion, but building an stadium for the next year’s Olympic games in the remains of the old city. And in that environment there is tension - Anti-government radicals and disaffected youths cause chaos and violence on the streets, while the government’s leaders are more interested in self-promotion and pet projects. All the while, the name AKIRA hangs over the city - a harbinger of doom, the weapon that destroyed the old city, or something else?
These elements combine when Kaneda and Tetsuo, a pair of bike punks encounter a strange, wrinkled child during a fight with a rival gang. The child, Takashi is telekenitic and has been busted out of a government facility by a resistance cell. In the aftermath of this encounter Kaneda gets caught up in the resistance movement and Testsuo begins to manifest psychic powers of his own - and a drug habit to try and contain the pressure of that power.
As the plot progresses, Kaneda gets caught up in the resistance, largely because he fancies Kei, a young woman who’s one of their field operatives, while she and her ‘brother’ Ryu try and find out where Kaneda stashed a capsule of the drug the government use to keep the psychic kids like Takashi under control, while Tetsuo becomes increasingly unhinged, preying on the bikers in the city to feed his drug habit. Naturally, this all comes to a head in a conflict that will radically change the city and the world.
So I’ve said many times before that Akira is one of my all-time favourite comics, and the question is less “is this one of your favourite comics?” and more “why is this one of your favourite comics?” And so:
- The art is amazing: Otomo and his team of assistants (including the late Satoshi Kon, who went on to be an amazing animator in his own right) create a world in this book, with an amazing attention to detail and consistency - there are ads on walls, graffiti (notably on the entrance to the bar Kaneda and his gang hang out at, and the school they attend), there are moments where someone pulls out in front of a car or a truck, and you see the driver react. And like many of the best manga, this intricacy is maintained consistently from panel to panel. There are some missteps, it takes about 150 pages for Kei’s hair to not look shit for example, but these are for the most part minor problems.
- The book is funny, but it’s not a comedy. There’s a lot of points where characters crack jokes - even incidental moments like soldiers making icebreaking gags before jumping into a sewer after Kei and Kaneda, Kaneda putting on a brave face when the resistance is trying to intimidate him. These moments are often amusing, sometimes they serve to break tension, and sometimes they just hang there. And that’s sorta what jokes are like in the real world. Not everything you say will make people laugh, especially when you’re in a stressful situation.
- Kaneda is a total fuckup. Over the course of the story, Kaneda trips over things, talks to himself, says the wrong thing, messes up, gets lost, and almost dies a few times while trying to be heroic. And he’s the protagonist! But beyond all that, he’s clearly a good person, the tension between him and Tetsuo is first because of their friendship, and then because Tetsuo is threatening his other friends. His intentions towards Kei are lewd at first, but you can see them forming a stronger relationship as this volume progresses.
There is more to this comic’s greatnes, but these are the main points that stand out to me in volume 1. I’ll go into others as I progress through the story.
You forgot to mention the fact that when the six volumes sit side by side, it reads AKAKAKAKAKAK. I imagine that should be one of the selling points.
Yeah, I have the entire ‘trilogy’, Forever Peace was a good read - and the last time I reread it was around the time they were firing up the Large Hadron Collider, so it felt rather timely.
Forever Free - the direct sequel to The Forever War was less enjoyable, though. And Marvano did an adaptation of it which Titan are going to be reprinting soon - I think I’ll read it in the shop before deciding if I want to pick it up.
Civil War II is a pretty strange book. It’s gorgeous to look at: Copiel, Marquez, Sorrentino … each of them amongst the best of the best. But, Bendis’ story is all over the place.
It starts really promising, with #0, and She Hulk’s persuasive argument for “innocent until proven guilty”. But, after that it just goes crazy.
All the interesting philosophical stuff gets tossed aside, as increasingly random plot twists and turns take over. Leaving you with the feeling of “What the hell just happened?” and “Why?”. Worse than that, there’s no follow through. Inexplicable stuff happens, and doesn’t get resolved. What was Hulk doing out there; what happened to Alison Green; do they really just have Thanos locked up somewhere; what did Tony do to drive the Inhumans into space; and on, and on …
There’s no explanation given for Carol’s character assassination. I’ve never liked the character, to be honest, but she’s an unrepentant bitch here. For. No. Good. Reason. Why?
Tony fares a little better, with an after the fact explanation by Beast. But, that would have been better placed 6 issues earlier in the series.
And, the action is really small scale. The original was a bombastic OTT superhero epic. This was a punch up between Tony and Carol. Other characters took a stand, but got little real screen time. Even the big set piece between the Avengers and the Guardians just seemed like window dressing.
This year I have a vague resolution to spend more time enjoying books I have and less money on new books, so I’m getting ready for a deep rereading dive into my personal favorite books of the early 00s. In addition to these I will read Sleeper and Chosen which I couldn’t find and BMB’s Daredevil and Jones’ Hulk through unlimited.
I’ve resolved to do something similar. I’ve mentioned before that my “to read” pile could probably keep my local comic shop going for a few months (back issues, trades, hardcovers, and digital). I’m determined to break the back of that this year. I’ve got some of the best comics ever published in that pile; lying around unread. That’s just criminal.
Oh yeah, my unread pile is nothing to sneeze at either. The latest Black Hammer, all of Providence, the last few Clean Room and Lazaus, the Tynion Detective Comics run, Slott’s Spidey, the Goddamned, a bunch of old Conan books. I need to slow down and enjoy the stuff I have for a little while. If I miss some good new stuff then so be it.
I said this in the Marvel thread, but it seems to me many of the writers’ hearts weren’t in this event, for whatever reason (my reason is that it’s dumb and unnecessary). And yeah I also noticed how unsympathetic Carol is portrayed in basically every book her and her project appears in. There’s no nuance or ‘choose a side’ like in Civil War — it’s just her being a fascist and doing things that get one of the world’s most famous heroes murdered…by another hero.
I defend Marvel a lot, and I loved many of the books Alonso’s reign produced, but CW2 was awful, and just bad in a way that meant it was never going to be good. The Hydra-Cap stuff was similarly ill thought — this stuff is just unpleasant and reading it makes one sad.
That’s a point, any word on the last volume of Berlin?
Oooo. Blankets is one of my favorites. Craig Thompson is amazing.
It’s coming out in fall 2018.
So it’ll be 8 years between volumes 1 and 2, and then 10 years between volumes 2 and 3, but it’ll be really nice to have it all together.
Oh, great, I hadn’t seen that, thanks.
And Sleeper and Incognito and Fatale.
Cable: Volume 1: Conquest
I do find that Cable is perhaps one of the very few characters who I’ll support by grabbing any series the character gets in trade. The problem is I’m not sure what sense of identity, if any, Marvel have for this book. What Robinson does is set him up as a guardian of the time and that works well enough. Cable is back to his classic incarnation and dealing with a mysterious new enemy. It’s an OK story.
The art does demonstrate just what an unfair line Marvel came out with on artists not selling a book because here there’s three issues of Pacheco (with help on the third) and two of Cinar. Both are very good artists, both have styles that are somewhat consistent, but should both be on a small five-issue arc at all? Marvel are chopping and changing artists on books so quickly the consumer has little chance to get to know and recognise, so enabling them to seek out that style in future, before someone else comes in.
I enjoyed this well enough, it’s a fun read but only really for Cable fans.
She-Hulk: Volume 1: Deconstructed
This ended up being more interesting than I expected it to be. Although, read as a monthly, I would expect this slow-burning story to be quite, quite frustrating. Read as a block of six issues in trade format makes it far more effective.
This book takes the trick of using an event story as a trigger but doesn’t need you to actually read said event, which is just as well when the event is Civil War II. The triggers for the story? Jen was comatose and while she was, Hawkeye killed the Hulk and was feted for it. Yeah, that sentence alone gives a good, partial picture of why that event has a notorious reputation. Tamaki then crafts a story about the effects of trauma on the individual. I quite like the way she uses the idea of how being asked if you are ‘back to normal’ doesn’t help you get back to normal because it reminds that there was that other state of being.
There’s a dark joke in a slumlord being called Mr Tick, as he is, in every sense, a parasite feeding off others.
This was a good opening arc and hopefully Tamaki has had enough notice of the cancellation to finish off her ideas.
Changing tack, when set against a standard DC Rebirth trade, both of these come off very badly. They’re just inferior by comparison while being the same price, possibly a little more. It doesn’t encourage me to buy more Marvel, just the opposite.
Inferior as in content or construction?
Physically. They’ve compressed the paper far, far too much. You can read them fine, but they look crap and feel cheap. They’re about 2/3 the thickness of your standard 5-issue DC Rebirth trade.
The kicker is the last trade I bought from them was Deadpool / Cable: Split Second and that was akin to a DC Rebirth trade. It was a good trade so that they go from doing that back to their bad old ways is just baffling.
EDIT: It’s even more baffling when I look at the Cable: Hellfire Hunt trade which is a really good one. They’re all over the place.