Reviewby John Jakala,
Super Manga Blast
7/10: And Dark Horse Comics' manga anthology manages to make it to issue twenty-five. Looking at ICv2.com's numbers for Nov. 2002, SMB! #27 came in at #200 on the chart, with an estimated 5,409 copies preordered (which puts it 10 spots, but some 2,000 units, below DHC's OH MY GODDESS #92). I have no idea how acceptable those numbers are to DHC, but I hope this title continues to survive. I've been following this title since #1, and I'm happy to see that it's made it this far.
Actually, looking back a bit further at ICv2's data, I see that orders for SMB! #25 were 5,690 - up over 500 units from SMB! #24. Presumably the reason for the bump was the return of the artist featured on the cover, Masamune Shirow, whose APPLESEED tale opens the book:
APPLESEED HYPERNOTES: But before we can get to the actual comic, we're bombarded with two pages of text attempting to bring us APPLESEED neophytes up to speed. A nice gesture, but it all read like gibberish to me, so I skipped it and jumped into the actual story. From what I could make out, it involved something about a police SWAT mission gone wrong. Pretty to look at, but a confusing story. Still, I've found that it's generally a sound idea to allow series in an anthology comic time to grow on you, so I'll continue to check out this feature in upcoming stories to see if it eventually clicks for me (as the next feature did).
SHADOW STAR: Shiina, along with Hoshimaru and Ensof, attempts to locate Akira, who has been abducted by an evil gang of dragon handlers. A good chapter, but I was a bit confused as to why Ensof didn't help out when Amapola (Satomi's shadow dragon) showed up holding Akira hostage. Was it because Ensof needed to be controlled by Akira, and she was too panicked to command him (it)? I guess I need to review how the whole link with the dragons works.
WHAT'S MICHAEL?: Another cute story about the antics of cats. I'm not a big fan of cats, but I love these strips. They're just such goofy fun, and I enjoy the exaggerated features of Kobayashi's characters. In this segment, Kobayashi explores the bond between an infant girl and her two feline siblings, and how the three tax the endurance of their mother/owner.
CLUB 9: Haruo talks down an arrogant baseball player and helps everyone save face. As in WHAT'S MICHAEL?, Kobayashi has a great way with characters' expressions and body language. He conveys individual personalities through the way characters carry themselves in various situations. I think many of CLUB 9's chapters could be read without words and the gist of the story and character interactions would still be clear (unlike most of Marvel's 'NUFF SAID attempts).
SERAPHIC FEATHER: Another series that I find largely incomprehensible. (Perhaps my understanding of manga is inversely proportional to the quantity of robots contained therein.) But there are enough unique things being done with pacing and storytelling (such as a two-panel sequence of a protagonist kicking off during a fight) to hold my interest.
Overall: SUPER MANGA BLAST! continues to provide great comics at an outstanding value - 5 individual stories spanning 128 pages for only 6 bucks. If you're at all interested in manga and you're not reading this anthology, you should check it out. Some of the stories may not appear to interest you at first, but I think if you give each series a chance, you'll find something to appreciate in each one.
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