Monday, April 24, 2006


I got the manga itch, and I got it bad.

I bought Death Note 1-3 at the comics shoppe on Thursday. Friday evening, Evelyn wanted to use me for my B&N discount and buy some books. While she tried to decide what bipolar memoir, feminist track and latina studies books she wanted (I told her she really needs to write a Feminist Manifiesta for latina women—an idea so brilliant and potentially offensive, I'm afraid to look at amazon to see if it's already been done), I wandered over to the comics section (I got to the store 45 minutes before she did and already looked at most everything else). I like to look at their comics section and see how it evolves, see how more and more alt comics customers are begining to join the manga fans with their rugburn asses.


When I was in San Francisco, I found myself getting obsessed with cartoonists I didn't know before (Ware, the Hernandez Bros.) who had been working with the comics form in ways I had never seen prior. I was also getting into pop science books on chaos math and superstrings and fooling around with chaos magic. And I was working on a complex comics narative incorporating ideas gleaned from those and other subjects.

Then I got sick. I lost about 40 lbs, slept only a few hours a week and developed a mysterious and debilitating muscle ailment. Until this past summer, it was the worst time of my life.

So, as I embark on another complex comics narative (complex for me, relative to EMAW #1-6), I find myself engaging in a whole new comics language in manga (well, it's really not as earth-shatteringly different as Jimmy Corrigan), fooling around with chaos magic and reading David Foster Wallace's Everything and More: A Compact History of ∞.

I'm staring into the abyss, and the abyss is chortling.


Standing in front of B&N's comics display, I noticed that they had Death Note vol. 4 and 5.

I couldn't help myself, and bought them both.

I finished #5 on Saturday. That's close enough to 1000 pages of comics in three days to make my head spin. I'm not a fast reader by any stretch of the imagination, but I was so engaged by Death Note ("A 92-rated Pinot Noir, some hard-core lesbian porn and then some sex, dear?" "Not now, reading Death Note") that I had a lot of trouble pulling myself away from it. Aside from being the best Batman story ever written, with Dave Sim art and Simonson Thor-like cliffhangers— there was something else going on here. I think Tsugumi Ohba (or whoever he or she really is) has a Death Note of her own. She wrote my and many other people's names in it and now we're forced to be obsessed with this book. Check and see if I'm still alive in 19 days.

Unfortunately, things change SO dramatically in book 5 that the whole thing is barely recognizable as itself. In a series with big twists and fun swerves, the biggest of twists almost stops the book dead. I still have hope that the next big swerve rights things out, but I don't have high hopes if what Jog has heard is any indication.

The book isn't out in comic book stores yet, so I'll avoid giving more away.

It's still an accomplished piece of craftsmenship, and I'm starting to fall for the art and appreciate its intricacies, and it's still better than most genre comics I've read.


Blogger Kenneth Belasco said...

I read the first issue of Death Note in Shonen Jump and I wasn't too immpressed but I'd be willing to give it another try.
As for a posting from before I was just making up genre titles for the hell of It. Japanese Manga, just like hong kong action and bollywood films, have the tendency to include everything plus the kitchen sink and a bag of chips. So a comedy book will have romance and some action, an action title will have romance and some horror, a horror title will have action and romance, and so on. This as you know can be a good or bad thing.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Justin J. Fox said...

The police investigation starts in chapter 2 and that's when the ridiculous gamesmanship between Light and L starts. It's a lot like the Batman tv show when he'd face the Riddler with the most unfounded leaps of logic possible.

That said, it only gets better and more ridiculous until book 5 (well, chapter 36), when it nosedives. There's still a few ways they can pull it out of the fire, but I don't know if they will.

Still, with the humor and romance, I'd definitely call this and Monster thrillers. There's not much genre blending.

Of course, I've never seen these genre-blending Hong Kong action and Bollywood films either.

I'm curious about that ghost book you've got, just because I'm willing to give VIZ a bit of slacks right now.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Kenneth Belasco said...

Marcos is borrowing bleach 1 and 2.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Justin J. Fox said...

That means I'll never see them! Why do you give him things?

12:08 PM  

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