Sunday, August 21, 2016

MISC. MANGA, *Queen Emeraldas

Kodansha Comics dipped way back to do the English release of this manga first done in 1978, but the American print is from a 2009 release. This is the first Queen Emeraldas manga to be released in English, even though a 4-issue American comic was put out by Eternity Comics. As a Leiji Matusumoto title, it ties into the "Leijiverse" with other anime/manga like Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999, although this manga was done in the early days of the shared continuity, meaning that a lot of the connections between Emeraldas and her sister Maetel doesn't come up much in it, but was likely rewritten later on. Even though the Harlock Saga showed an actual change in the timeline due to Norse gods screwing up the space/time continuum, the Queen Emeraldas manga is set prior to all that Dr. Who mess.

Emeraldas is a mysterious wandering space pirate who solely sails the "sea of stars" in her zeppelin-styled starship, the Queen Emeraldas, that we learn in on-again/off-again flashbacks that the scar-faced redhead came across in the ruins of a lost civilization. She is searching for someone to confront, exactly who isn't revealed at first, but more than likely has some connection to a brilliant young orphan, Hiroshi Umino. He escapes from Earth in a ship of his own making, and continuously keeps running into Emeraldas, who secretly helps him on his journey to create his own ship(that lasts). In her travels, Emeraldas meets old allies and enemies, each one give only a tiny clue to the endless enigma that she's built around herself.

One of the few manga to be printed in English in hardcover format, Kodansha did a great job formatting this restoration, even though its a bit pricey. The 3-volume manga is turning out to be a real collectors item so far, meaning its probably a good idea to get them out while their still fresh on the American market.

Monday, August 15, 2016

ANI-MOVIES, *Batman: The Killing Joke

Based on the groundbreaking prestige format one-shot by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, Warner Bros. decided to take on the task of the most controversial Batman comic by turning it into an animated feature. This was slightly difficult not because of the mature nature, but because the original material would only make for about a 45-minute long feature. So, to pad out the running time to at least over an hour, they decided to put a separate prelude featuring Batgirl, slightly based on the Batgirl Special one-shot that came out less than a year prior to Batman: The Killing Joke. This was met with a lot of backlash from the fan community, partially because it doesn't completely fit in to the main segment, but mostly because it shown to further DC animated projects weird habit of shipping characters who don't have any love interest in each other in the comics, or even meet up that regularly either(i.e.: Green Lantern and Hawkgirl).

Taking place in its own storyline with no connection to Batman: The Animated Series or any of the other DC projects like the New 52 movies, this story starts out with Batgirl meeting up with Batman chasing an up an coming young mobster, Paris Franz(made up for the movie). Paris takes a shining to Batgirl, while trying to take over his uncle's mob, and nearly succeeds in trapping Batgirl with sleeping gas, so Batman forbids her to go after Paris. Batgirl defiantly fights against Batman, where things heat up and of course leads to them making out on a rooftop. Whether this is Batman projecting Catwoman or some other ex-girlfriend in tight leather onto Batgirl is never really explained, but he then distances himself from her while hunting Paris. However, Paris gets the drop on him by hitting the Batmobile with a rocket launcher, but Batgirl shows up punch the living wazoo out of him, blaming him for the rift now formed between her and Batman. Barbara Gordon then retires from being Batgirl, partially for her feelings for Batman, but also because Paris made the whole hero business too personal for her.

The next part is a pretty clear adaptation of The Killing Joke itself. although the prelude does succeed in realizing how Batgirls aggression towards Paris mirrors his relationship with the Joker, who has recently escaped Arkham. While Batman beats down thugs trying to find him, Joker invades Commissioner Gordon's apartment, kidnapping him, and shooting Barbara which paralyzes her legs. Joker takes Gordon to an abandoned amusement park he "bought", and tortures Gordon with naked pictures of Barbara he took after shooting her. Batman is invited to the Joker's park, and fights off his freak show minions, afterwards he discovers Gordon has still kept his sanity despite the Joker's torture. The Dark Knight chases after the Clown Prince in a near fight to the death, but Batman's spares him in the hope he might someday be able to save Joker from his own madness. This ends in the notoriously ambiguous finale as to whether Batman kills the Joker after telling him a joke that sums up their relationship.

The backlash given to the movie is given mostly to fans hating the Batman/Batgirl sex scene, which is because the majority of longtime comics fans were stuck on Batgirl and Robin being a couple, plus Batgirl being the daughter of one of Batman's best allies. The original Batgirl Special the prelude was inspired by would have worked within the confines of The Killing Joke movie as a DC Showcase, similar to the Catwoman special was released with Batman: Year One as a follow up to the movie centering on the Catwoman of that movie's universe. It would mean that the The Killing Joke itself would either be even more padded out by about another 10 minutes or so, but it might have simmered some serious heat off of it. It is satisfying to finally see a DC Universe movie where Batgirl has an active role, however the DC animated features "fetish" of hooking up unrelated characters doesn't pan out well here, even though its long been established that Batgirl has had a thing for Batman. The actual Killing Joke portion of the movie is exceptionally well done, with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill being recast as the eternal rivals. Some have criticized that the animation doesn't fully live up to Brian Bolland's style, but considering how realistic his art style was back in the day, this was no easily obtainable task. However, the design and animation manage to work well for this feature, at least up to the same specs as some of the current DC Universe animated projects. It's worth a look at, mostly because of its historical significance, but also as a inventive take on one of the highest regarded titles in American comics.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

MISC. MANGA, *Battle Chasers

Setting the bar pretty high for itself, Battle Chasers was part of Wildstorm's Cliffhanger lineup back when they where with Image Comics, and later when they were sold to DC Comics. This came out the same time as other popular Cliffhanger titles like Crimson and Steampunk, but Battle Chasers became exceedingly huge with gamers and otaku mostly due to it's anime style and JRPG backdrop. Creator Joe Madureira conveniently left the series on a "cliffhanger" as he went on to become a game designer. However, the series has recently been crowdfunded into an online game, with the promise of continuation of the comic.

Set in a steampunk-ish fantasy realm, Gully is the daughter of a legendary warrior Aramus, who has recently gone missing. Gully inherits her father's power gauntlets which endow the bloodline-worthy bearer extraordinary strength, and is hunted by werewolves sent by an unknown evil force. The young girl gains allies in the former war-golem Calibretto and the hermit wizard Knolan. They get help from Aramus' former prize protégé, an outcast warrior called Garrison, whose former lover interest, the series' poster girl Red Monika, tries to free a prisoner from a floating prison. The prison break lets out all the deadly criminals and abominations that leads our heroes to band together to protect the kingdom, which isn't as justly run as it seems.

Battle Chasers lasted originally for nine issues with about four different trade paperbacks, which also included a prelude one-shot and a feature in a fantasy magazine. Whether or not the series continues is still not fully disclosed, but it is worth looking into the first few issues. Joe Madureira based his work on gritty mid-90s anime fantasy similar to Bastard, Berserk and Ninja Scroll. So, if the works of Yoshiaki Kawajiri are what you crave, then give Battle Chasers a look.

Will Smith does not care about white comic characters!