Ongoing Investigations: Case #140

I am not a huge reader of webcomics, but I’m hooked on Hark! A Vagrant which never ceases to give me a good chuckle. So it comes as little surprise that the writer of such a hilarious and witty comic is those same things in person. This was the book launch party and you could tell she was very happy about it. And even with technical difficulties, she just rolled with it. Once she started telling her little history a lot was learned and laughed about. She comes from a very small town where her classes through primary school were 22 people large.  She was the only artist and she always felt that comics and drawing were things she did but not jobs she could have. It was rather inspiring to hear how in college in life and then after further after graduation, with no formal training, others encouraged her to do it. She did say she feels it is much harder now to really get a webcomic going, when she jumped in it was just a fairly new idea. Showing off many of her comics over the years it was fun to track her progress and ideas. She also showed which comics went over really well for her like the Tycho Brahe one that pretty much went viral. It was also evident how much more freer her style has become, by her own admission because she wants to continue to evolve and can’t image drawing the same things in the same ways forever. This was a great talk with a wonderful turn out.

I found out about Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant from Otaku USA’s own master of moe Caleb Dunaway. He of course loved it because it is a slightly off kilter mostly historical based comedy web comic. Narutaki and I being fans of history in general were drawn to the comic as well. So when Kate Beaton was giving a talk in New York we had to go. The Housing Works bookstore was a cozy little shop that is run by volunteers where all proceeds from the café go to providing support services for homeless people living with HIV/AIDS. You quickly realized that the bookstore was not huge when the events started with about a hundred people in attendance. Fortunately we can early enough that we had seats but the place was packed. When the event started she tried to do a reading of some of her strips but technical problems with the projector nipped that in the bud. I put up a little video of that if you were curious. When that was not working out she went into how she got into web comics and the processes that she uses to make her comics and how it has changed over the years. She then did some Q&A which she eventually just had to cut off so everyone could get a signature. I think the most interesting thing was that growing up in Canada she knew almost nothing of American superhero comics. But when she got involved with the web comics community she picked up an interest just by osmosis due to going to various conventions and talking to other artists. A was also impressed with the amount of research she does. I always knew she had to do research for the comic but the amount she does seems insane. Overall she was quite friendly, intelligent, and witty. Also by the end of the night she was a bit tipsy but she was extremely cordial and gave everyone a personalized sketch with their copy of her book. We got Elliot Page a sketch of Sir Issac Newton, Clarissa from AWO a sketch of one of the Strong Female Characters, and Caleb a sketch of Queen Elizabeth. Also if you see an Einstein comic in the future we are going to take full credit for that.

I finally read my first Yoko Tsuno book On the Edge of Life which was much as had always imagined it was. Nancy Drew plus Johnny Quest plus pseudo-science with great art. In this particular adventure, Yoko goes to Germany to visit a friend but when she gets there she finds out the friend is mysteriously ill. And what’s worse, a strange figure is sneaking into her room at night replacing her friend’s natural blood with an artificial kind. Things get even more complicated from there with an underground lab, a secret history, and look-a-likes. It was a ton of fun! The book is rather expositiony, in old comic form, which isn’t surprising since this is from the 70s but again that is what gives it its charm.

As the season wraps up I finished watching Hanasaku Iroha. Hanasaku Iroha is a roller coaster ride of quality. Its highs could be very high but its lows could be equally low. Anything involving the grandmother or Koicihi is very strong, anything involving Nako is usually sweet, and anything with Taro is usually HORRIBLE. The rest of the cast can vary on how entertaining their material is with Minko having the greatest extremes in caliber. It never gets as bad as the infamous third episode but some episodes will have just a pinch of service where as others (the trip to the beach comes to mind) would make you think this is a harem show. Minko can be complex at times and then a one-dimensional jealousy machine at other times. I enjoyed the ending as I was a bit surprised at now conclusive it was. I expected a life goes ending in which it concludes exactly how it started but the finale was surprisingly conclusive. They left themselves with more than enough room for more if they wanted a second season but ending strongly. Overall the final two episodes made the ride worth the effort but some of the middle made me totally understand why Narutaki dropped this show. The payoff is only worth it for those who can stand some suffering.

I picked up new Ultimate Spider-Man #1 to see what Miles Morales was all about. I’ve never really read much of the Ultimate Universe, and what I did read I wasn’t drawn in by, however this new Spidey was able to capture my curiosity. While by the end you can see Miles’ powers will be different, he comes into possession of them in much the same way as Peter and you can also similarly thank Norman Osborn for it. But so far that is where the similarities stop. I’m happy to see Miles with a family and hope they don’t bite the bullet any time soon. The letters section at the end fascinated me, so much anger. I love Peter too, Spider-Man is my favorite, but he is still alive and doing his thing in the main Marvel Universe, what’s there to be upset about?

 Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth is a gentle show and distinct proof that we here at the Reverse Thieves don’t hate everything that is an atmospheric slice of life show. You just have to have something more than cute girls do cute things. Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth has a plot and a well realized historical atmosphere that elevates the show beyond the tales of hanging out in the sign shop. Yune and Claude learn to deal with each others cultural background and baggage as a key element of the show but there are other things going on as well. In a surprising turn Claude has a romantic background that is more complex than just having some girl to be a useless rival for Yune. The conflicts have just enough meat that and I am intrusted to see what happens every episode even if most episodes are just about bathing in the atmosphere and Yune’s antics. An unusual setting also helps keep my interest as well. I know a lot of people complained that the ending was not decisive enough. Maybe I am a child of 80’s anime where the “READ THE MANGA NOW” ending was prevalent enough that I easily accept such an ending. I thought we got some nice closure to the run of the anime with learning about Claude’s dad. Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth is just a nice relaxing show that keeps me awake while putting me in a good mood. I would like to read the rest of the manga but I am satisfied with we have.


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