Ongoing Investigations: Case #167

Sumo is a gimmick comic. That might seem like an insult but when a gimmick comic concept mixes with a solid story it can become something far greater. When the story is weak in a gimmick comic than you often just wind up rolling your eyes as you call out the novelty piece of the story. But with Sumo its storytelling twist adds to its great story to give you the feeling you are reading something innovative.

The story in itself is simple. A washed out NFL hopeful moves to Japan to become a Sumo wrestler after a devastating breakup. While he has an amazing amount of promise he has been doing rather mediocre and his next match is a pivotal point in his career. The story jumps back and forth in time with each period in time being its own color. This lets the reader know when each piece of the story takes place without text balloons or exposition but at the same time also lets the color of the time period reenforce the mood of the story at that point. The blue really helps reinforce the melancholy feel of Scott’s time in America, the green shows Scott’s awkward transition to life in Japan as he gets to know his manager’s daughter, while the orange helps express the spirit invested in Scott’s critical match.

If the story was not there, this would merely read like a slight curiosity. But instead this instead demands your attention and begs to be used as an example for anyone wanting to explore the use of color in comics.

Sumo is by Thien Pham who worked with Gene Luen Yang on Level Up which we liked a lot.

The story of Scott is a fairly simple one told in alternating time frames but each piece meets up at the end with poetic force. Though I was a bit surprised we don’t know the full outcome, but we do know that Scott’s life and his understanding of what he wants has changed.

Thien’s simple artwork is bold and iconic using strong lines to express a variety of emotion. One minor quibble I had with the art was during the Sumo matches, it was sometimes hard to tell who was who. The use of color as Hisui mentioned is very important in the book with oranges for Scott’s life in the present, bright with possibility; blues for his past in America, a time of coming-of-age and letting go; and greens for his (more recent) past in Japan, new life and growth taking over. All of this makes the sparse amount of dialog more powerful allowing you to let the emotions wash over you.

Sumo is a quiet story that has immense power.

There is a preview available, too.

I played a little of the open Diablo III beta last weekend. I only learned about it on a busy Sunday but I still got about three hours of solid play in. As someone who used to played a good deal of Diablo I and II in high school and college I am fairly familiar with the series. On the other hand, I think it has been about a decade since I played any of the series as well. But even with that time in between I can confidently say, “That sure is some Diablo.”

To be really reductionist Diablo is a slightly complex Roguelike with pretty graphics. That is not entirely fair to Diablo. Diablo has more of a story, crafting, and more complexity of combat. But the main mechanism is still the same. 90% of the game is delving into dungeons to hack and slash new enemies and get sweet loot and then use said sweet loot to kill more monsters and get even better sweet loot. This is true of almost all RPGs but what it comes down to is the percentage. Roguelikes are 98% hack and slash and 2% story. The story is certainly more robust than a Roguelikes but still less than even a bare bones standard story RPG. Still I liked the fact that there was distinctly more traipsing around the area instead of just plunging into a leveled dungeon.

The main problem is a solid review is dependent a bit more on the middle and end game play. How balanced are the classes at high levels? How well does the experience and loot doled out vacillate between endless grinding to make minimal progress and Monty Haul simplicity. The enemies were fairly interesting in the levels I played but do they keep changing up the types of enemies you fight or are harder levels mostly just made up of re-skinned and  palette swapped versions of all the enemies I already fought?  That higher level game play is what makes or breaks the fun.

But I enjoyed what I saw so far. Just know it is mostly the standard Diablo formula with some new shine.

 The Massive, Digital One-Shot was available for Earth Day so I decided to take a look. Being unfamiliar with The Massive series, this one-shot was intriguing but ends before I really have any idea what the main thrust of the story is.

I know the environment factors in heavily and our group seem to be activists on that front. Beyond that, we get a little back story for two of our leads and some beautiful art depicting the wildness of the ocean. There could be a superpower or supernatural bent to the story but it is unclear.

Fate/Complete Material III is the artbook that anyone who reads Japanese would benefit from the most.

While this is still obviously an artbook with many a pretty picture, it is also the most text heavy of the five Fate universe artbooks. Most of this book is an explanation of world of Fate/Stay Night with details on how everything works and a pretty solid FAQ sections as well. The infamous Kinoko Nasu explains magical systems part of the game all in one handy book with lots of new pieces of the world only hinted at in the games. While this is not everything in the book some highlights of the text within are translated here.

Astute fans will notice that a certain someone who you  might not expect is mentioned in the book and that is possibly major spoilers for Fate/Zero. Other than that the main draw art wise is all the extra material from the PS2 version of Fate/Stay Night that had a bunch of new artwork added (some of which was added because they took out the sex scenes) as well as the new Epilogue.

They also have all the Tiger Dojos with comments. I mean that alone should justify the price on the book. Buruma has words for you!

Princeless issue 1 is up for free on Bleeding Cool after being nominated for Eisner Awards. While the first issue is unsurprisingly mostly set-up, it is already showing what’s great about it.

Adrienne our heroine has been questioning the princess-locked-in-a-tower-guarded-by-dragon-to-be-rescued-by-prince mythos since she was a child. Still she finds herself in that exact situation. After berating the latest rescuer for calling her “fair” asking him if he even knows the meaning because she is dark of hair and skin, she discovers a sword in the tower and promptly decides to leave.

The series is very humorous from Adrienne’s voice and observations. The complications of her family and the successor of the kingdom creep in a little towards the end. I’m looking forward to reading more!

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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