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Oni Press

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WON TON SOUP
Written and Drawn by James Stokoe

Johnny Boyo was on his way to being the galaxy’s greatest chef. But instead, he chose to chuck it all, leave his girlfriend and culinary school behind, and become a space trucker. Now he’s driving through the universe, running into things like “deep space ninjas,” and sampling the local cuisine. But fate has other things in store for him when the ship breaks down and he’s forced to return home for a while. Now a legend, he’s also a marked man on the kitchen circuit, and it looks like he will be forced back behind the stove at least one more time in order to battle for his honor in what amounts to a sort of “Iron Chef Milky Way” contest.

WON TON SOUP is flat-out weird, but in the very best way. It takes advantage of its sci-fi setting to do some weird stuff like the ninjas, and the foods are so bizarre that you can’t help but giggle at them. But it’s also somewhat grounded in its own way; Johnny is a very relatable character, and his girlfriend Citrus is also quite charming as well. Bonus kudos to Stokoe for not drawing Citrus as a stick figure comic girl and instead giving her curves and hips, by the way. Of course, in all of the madness, Stokoe’s really telling a very traditional story: boy goes home and must deal with his past and the girl he left behind. He just makes it more damned interesting than some godawful shit like OCTOBER ROAD.

It also looks great. Oni has always done well in putting out books that have a manga-influenced aesthetic, but none more so than SOUP. While Stokoe isn’t going to be named an honorary Japanese anytime soon, he gets it better than most. The panel layouts, the style, the pacing… it’s all here. When I cracked the cover to this book, I honestly had very low expectations for it, but when I put it down, I was ready for dessert. That’s the sign of a damned fine meal.

Marc Mason

NARCOLEPTIC SUNDAY
Written by Jeremy Haun and Drawn by Brian Koschak

Jack Larch’s curse is that he can pass out just about anywhere or anytime, no matter where he’s at. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t or won’t try and lead a full life. So one afternoon, when he meets Jill, the girl of his dreams, it all seems pretty peachy. Until he wakes up in the bed they’ve shared together and she’s been murdered. Now a suspect, he must navigate a sea of crooked cops, masked thugs, sexy strippers, and transvestite club owners to figure out why someone wanted a sweet young waitress dead. Hopefully, he’ll stay awake long enough to solve the mystery and get his life back.

NARCOLEPTIC SUNDAY follows in a long tradition of noir thrillers, making solid strides with the traditional cast of characters and a “trust no one” mentality built up in the hero, and it does it very well. No question, there’s a compelling read at its heart, even if the resolution does come across as a bit too obvious. Where it really scores, though, is in how it uses its protagonist’s weakness. I can’t recall ever reading a story where you had to worry about the hero falling asleep in the middle of being attacked by gun-wielding goons. Pretty unique, and definitely interesting.

Haun has been solely an artist up to this point, but he shows himself to be quite adept at the keyboard. His one weak spot is in dialogue; nothing here ever quite crackles or electrifies. Yet his plotting skills are fine, which is sort of the opposite of a lot of young writers these days. Koschak has an appealing look about his art, and he excels nicely in his use of solid lines for shadows. Recommended for those who love Hammett and Tarantino.

Marc Mason

SCOTT PILGRIM VOL.4
Written and Drawn by Bryan Lee O’Malley

The day I opened the Waiting Room, SCOTT PILGRIM VOL.3 was the first review I posted. And while that speaks to the amount of time that has passed between Scott’s appearances, it also speaks to my love and appreciation for Bryan O’Malley’s slacker opus. Unlike many books that take their sweet-ass time getting to the shelves, I have no issues in waiting for SCOTT, because the first three of the series have been gold. And it comes as no surprise that volume four, SCOTT PILGRIM GETS IT TOGETHER is not only worth the wait, but also the best of the series to date.

When last we were hanging with Scott, he had defeated the third of his girlfriend Ramona Flowers’ evil ex-boyfriends in combat, so that was a positive thing. But the rest of his life was stuck in neutral. He still had no job, his band, Sex Bob-omb was going nowhere, and his living situation still required him to platonically share a bed with his gay roommate Wallace. Now, he’s facing some new challenges, making the whole deal even more complicated. First, a girl he knew and had a thing for in high school has come to town, causing friction with Ramona. Also, Scott and Wallace’s lease is about to run out, offering the prospect of homelessness in his near future. There’s also the little problem he has in not being able to tell Ramona he loves her, and the return of someone from Ramona’s past who isn’t happy with the pair’s relationship.

Oh, and there’s another ex to battle, of course.

What makes TOGETHER work so well is how much the characters and the series come into focus here. The actual deal with having to conquer Ramona’s exes is fairly secondary this time around, and the “game logic” stuff is kept to a minimum, surfacing only when it makes for a great joke or to bolster an emotional moment. O’Malley chooses instead to put Scott through the paces of maturing and growing up a bit. It isn’t easy, and he makes a ton of stupid mistakes along the way, but it works perfectly. In fact, the whole cast shines and comes across so strong on the page that I would have been satisfied had Scott never had to throw a punch or unsheathe a sword.

Throw in O’Malley’s usual expressive art and dialogue that kills (line of the year: “Scott, if your life had a face, I would punch it in the balls. Seriously.”) and you have twelve bucks worth of sheer brilliance. As solid a book as you’ll find on the shelves.

Marc Mason

RESURRECTION #1
Written by Mark Guggenheim and Drawn by David Dumeer

We’ve seen any number of books, movies, and comics that deal with alien invasions that come close to wiping out planet Earth. They’re a staple of speculative fiction, after all. Big battles, big explosions, lots of property damage… people get off on them. But RESURRECTION is telling a different story. On page one, the survivors discover that the alien threat is gone, ten years after it began. Now the real story begins. How will society put itself back together? Can a united humanity remain that way for more than fifteen minutes? And might there still be a few badguys left behind who could cause a little trouble?

To be blunt, Mark Guggenheim’s work at Marvel has left me flat; I haven’t enjoyed a single bit of it. So I was pretty surprised by how much I liked RESURRECTION. It has some nice character depth to it, and by telling this story, it gives the writer the chance to genuinely say something about our current society as well (as good sci-fi should). There are a number of strong plots put into motion here, and I found myself interested in every one of them.

David Dumeer’s art is really terrific. He’s got a nice sense of how to draw real people. There are different body types, different ethnicities… and he knows how to draw a proper background, too. For some, it seems to be a lost art, so to speak.

I think the challenge for RESURRECTION will be in keeping the monthly title compelling. The book should read quite well in trade, but keeping an eye on the pacing will be critical.

Marc Mason


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