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SUICIDE GIRLS: ISSUE #1
Written by Various
Published by The Suicide Girls

What do you get when you take a series of fine interviews conducted by Daniel Robert Epstein, a hilarious essay by actor/writer Rob Corddry, and hundreds of erotic pictures of gorgeous, tattooed, and pierced women? Pretty much heaven in magazine form, otherwise known as SUICIDE GIRLS #1. Not content to own the web, or to rest on their two terrific DVDs, the Girls attack the world of print and stick a flag in the ground declaring ownership.

I could go into great depth about the photos themselves; I’m a fan of the Suicides, so this publication was already square in my sights as something damned near necessary to my life. But instead, let’s talk quality of publication. The mag is printed in an over-sized format, ten inches by ten inches. It also uses a higher quality paper stock- thicker and heavier, which allows for better ink retention and sharper printing, which is especially important when your photographic subjects have intricate and ornate tattoos that would turn to (image) mud on thinner, slicker paper.

In addition to Corddry’s hilarious bit, Epstein’s interviews with David Cross and Irvine Welsh or must-reads as well. As a whole, this is truly an excellent package, and for anyone who loves the site and the women who make it the amazing place it is, it’s essential. But even if you aren’t a fan, you would still be able to pick this up and appreciate the artistry and fine writing it contains. And it might be a collector’s item at this point; at the Suicide Girls booth at SDCC, the women told me it was close to sold out. You may need to hit Ebay to find one.

It won’t be mine, though.

Marc Mason

MANGA: THE COMPLETE GUIDE
Edited by Jason Thompson
Published by Del Rey Books

Are you a manga fan? You’re going to want this book.

Are you someone who couldn’t give less of a damn about manga? Perhaps you’re someone who believes that comics should only be 32 stapled-together pages that come out monthly and feature people in fetish wear beating the snot out of each other?

If you are… you need this book.

Jason Thompson, along with a collection of fine writers, has put together a comprehensive look at every Japanese comic translated for English-speaking audiences. And I mean, it’s comprehensive; it covers books that hit American shelves twenty years ago, and it covers books released as recently as within the last year. Information about the series’ plot, background on the artist, the number of published volumes, the target demographic (and age level), whether or not the film was flipped for printing, and a star-rated review that discusses the book’s quality are part of each entry, with the exception of series that are too new to get a full and comprehensive read on. This amounts to information on thousands of manga titles. There are also sidebars that discuss manga terminology and tropes (such as: what exactly does “fanservice” mean?), and Japanese cultural concepts that can get lost on an American reader.

All of this really points to one thing that I firmly believe: there is a manga out there for everybody, and I mean everybody. If you can’t read through these 500+ pages and find a book that sounds like it might appeal to you, you’re kidding yourself, or just being an ass about it.

For that reason alone, I think this is one of the more important books to hit shelves this year. Nothing else like it exists, and the utile nature of it is incredible. I have found myself pulling it off the shelf just to randomly read it, or do a little fact checking… and I get something new out of it every time I do. The wealth of information is overpowering.

Downside? It is only Japanese material. Korean and Chinese material is not covered, and I’d definitely like to see guides for those as well. It’s a small complaint, though; considering that Thompson and company cover everything else so well (including yaoi and porn manga), it’s hard to find fault with any portion of this book. I suspect there will be new editions every couple of years, which will be welcome sights, I think, keeping a huge subject manageable for so many readers. I cannot recommend highly enough that you pick up this amazing piece of work; I think you’ll be pleased that you did.

Marc Mason

THE LIST
Written and Illustrated by Rich Koslowski
Published by 3 Finger Prints

In a bunker buried in the middle of the desert lies a man the world has nearly forgotten. His kingdom was assaulted, his subjects killed. His property and place in the world are in the clutches of an evil corporation that’s using the man’s privileged information to do terrible things, as well as keeping the world’s governments at bay. But when a lower-level worker in the fabled city learns that the man in the bunker is alive, the game changes. The world might just have a chance to free itself from evil, and a force for good can be put back into play. The man in the bunker’s name? Santa Claus. And after over 30 years of imprisonment, it’s time to turn “Ho! Ho! Ho!” into a hurtin’ for the bad guys.

Rich Koslowski is back on the shelves with another dose of the clever, following up on the terrific THE KING and 3 FINGERS. However, where those two books were full graphic novels, THE LIST is an illustrated novella… an interesting change of pace and risk for a man known solely for his sequential prowess at this point in his career. The book’s title refers to Santa’s greatest asset: his list of who’s naughty and who’s nice, which, as you might imagine, is an item that most major world governments would love to have in their possession. But it takes some naughtiness on the part of a nasty corporation, and an old foe of Santa’s, to get the master of Christmas to part with it. And even then, it’s only by force.

The first two-thirds of Koslowski’s tale are terrific stuff. He does well at building the backstory and in explaining how Santa was militarily expelled from the North Pole, and how the baddies were able to easily usurp his place in children and parents’ hearts. But he struggles as he approaches the finish line. The climactic sequence relies on a gag older than time itself and feels kind of forced, like Koslowski couldn’t figure out a better method to achieve his goal. He also shows some difficulty in writing and pacing the action sequences, and you get the sense that he’d honestly prefer to not be writing them at all, instead focusing on his characters. That isn’t a bad thing, but without the action in the climax, the book would fold in on itself, and the reader would feel shorted.

Koslowski’s illustrations are uniformly lovely, and it shows just how versatile an artist he truly is. Look at the two books I mentioned above, alongside this one, and you’ll see an artist who is very adaptable.

THE LIST may have its problems, but I think that it is ultimately a solid effort and worth your hard-earned yanqui dollars to purchase. If anything, Koslowski knows how to entertain a reader, and this little Christmas cookie goes down smooth.

Marc Mason

 


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