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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    2009’s best comics

    Though the economy continues to suffer, this year has proved to be a bountiful one for comic books. Fantagraphics Books continues its wonderful reprints of classic works from George Herriman (“”Krazy Kat””), E.C. Segar (“”Popeye””) and Hank Ketcham (“”Dennis the Menace””). DC and Marvel Comics continue their seemingly endless rounds of events whereby characters are killed and things change “”forever.””

    The state of manga in the U.S. saw a major shift when Kodansha cancelled licensing its properties to TokyoPop in hopes of getting better distribution through other publishers, which has left many series in limbo.

    Regardless of the news, in the end readers reaped the benefits of an ongoing public interest in comic books. Here are some of the best comics released this year, in no particular order:

    “”Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye“” by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stuart. Here’s a Morrison project that explores the ideas of heroism and maturity in a Orwellian world that’s been taken over by Mickey Eye, a psychopathic walking eye with a popular cartoon show.

    Seaguy is an unemployed, confused hero in a world that seems to no longer need its heroes. He wears a diving suit as his costume, has no superpowers and gets advice from the floating ghost of his tuna friend Chubby. He wants nothing more than to enjoy adventures with his friends and with the love of his life. Isn’t that what we all want?

    “”Fantastic Four: Solve Everything“” by Jonathan Hickman, Dale Eaglesham and Paul Mounts. Hickman and company look at how the smartest man on Earth begins to atone for the consequences of his actions in recent Marvel events by solving the world’s problems. A council of Reed Richards from parallel Earths has noticed his work and offers him membership. Richards eventually faces the ultimate question, “”What is the price of solving everything?”” Hickman’s answer is simpler and more profound than removing errant dark matter from the Sun, and strikes at the heart of what The Fantastic Four are all about.

    “”Oishinbo“” by Tetsu Kariya and Hanasaki Akira. This lighthearted manga series has been published in Japan since 1983, and finally sees publication in the U.S. this year. We follow the adventures of journalist Yamaoka Shiro and his coworkers as they try to put together the “”Ultimate Menu,”” a meal that embodies the best of Japanese cuisine, for the 100th celebration of their newspaper.

    If you’d told me five years ago that bookstores would be carrying manga about food and Japanese culture, I would’ve called you a fool and said, “”Show me the scanlation!”” Nowadays, I’m not surprised to find a manga cookbook on the shelves next to this series that not only highlights the nuances of Japanese cuisine, but also shows us that how we treat our food matters as much as how we treat each other.

    “”Pluto“” by Naoki Urasawa. The creator behind “”Monster”” and “”20th Century Boys,”” two series that are also worth reading, brings a radical retelling of the classic tale from Osamu Tezuka’s “”Astro Boy”” series, “”The Greatest Robot on Earth.””

    Commissioned for Astro Boy’s birthday in Japan, Urasawa presents the original story’s characters and plot points through the lens of a psychological murder mystery. German robot detective and former war hero Gesicht leads the investigation as to why someone, or something, is hunting down the world’s strongest robots. The theme of what defines humanity, a recurring theme in Tezuka’s original series, is heightened here to maximum effect.

    “”Asterios Polyp“” by David Mazzucchelli. I reviewed this graphic novel earlier this semester and my opinion remains the same, if not improved, with each reading. Here is the story of a man who finds that the meaning of life isn’t to be found in theories and blueprints, but in how we act toward other human beings, whether that person is an artistic genius or our one and only love. Mazzucchelli sets a new standard for what a graphic novel can be.

    “”Chew“” by John Layman and Rob Guillory. This is the surprise debut of the year. The Food and Drug Administration has been repurposed to stop the illegal trafficking of chicken, which has been banned after the avian flu pandemic. Tony Chu is a cibopath, which means he gets psychic impressions from everything he eats. He is drafted as an FDA agent in charge of crimes related to chicken trafficking, including murder. He solves them by, you guessed it, tasting the clues.

    Layman and Guillory take the numerous food poisoning outbreaks of this decade and our fears of food quality and safety, and toss them into a vibrant underdog detective story. The dialogue is snappy and hints at an alternate history, and the story moves at a brisk pace that doesn’t leave us behind. Despite the occasional gruesomeness — Chu “”flashes”” a murder in all of its minute details after a spoonful of stew — Layman and Guillory pack in enough humor to make this ongoing series a feast for the eyes.

    — Steven Kwan is a nutritional sciences senior. He can be reached at arts@wildcat.arizona.edu.

     

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