Here are some short reviews of what I've been reading over the past week:
Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka vol. 1, by Naoki Urasawa, Osamu Tezuka, and Takashi Nagasaki, 2009, Viz Media, 200 pages, $12.99
For the first time in a long time, I absolutely cannot wait to read the next volume of a serialized comic book. Pluto, Urasawa's re-imagining of the classic 1964 Tezuka Astro Boy story "The Greatest Robot on Earth," is a sci-fi murder mystery about a robot detective trying to discover who is targeting the seven great robots of the world. IT IS FANTASTIC.
Just to single out a few things: first, the detective's encounter with Brau 1589, a robot who violated the robot laws by killing a human being, is chilling. And the three chapters about the relationship between the former army-bot North No. 2 and his new master, an aging musical maestro, are stunning in their drama and emotional complexity.
I cannot recommend this enough, and I hope the rest of the series maintains this level of quality. If you have not read this, go out immediately and get it.
You can buy it from Amazon here: Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka vol. 1
Hellboy vol. 4: The Right Hand of Doom, by Mike Mignola, 2004, Dark Horse, 144 pages, $17.95
Way back when, I mentioned that Mike Mignola's horror-adventure series Hellboy was on my list of "Things that I wish I was reading." I've since set out to remedy that, and this past week I grabbed The Right Hand of Doom from the library. This collects a number of one-shots and short stories that originally were published in 1998 and 1998. It's good spooky fun, just like I wanted.
The first story, a two-pager called "Pancakes," is just damn funny. Most of the rest of the stories weave in creatures from world folklore, such as an enormous Romanian vampire called the Vârcolac and a bunch of Japanese floating demon heads. The final story, "Box Full of Evil," focuses more on the central mystery of Hellboy himself: what is he, why is he here, and what's up with that big stone hand.
Mignola's art and Dave Stewart's colors are terrific, as always. It's a nice collection.
See a preview here. You can buy it from the publisher here or from Amazon here: Hellboy vol. 4: The Right Hand of Doom
Benny and Penny: The Big No-No, Geoffrey Hayes, 2009, Toon Books, 32 pages, $12.95
My children enjoy this book about two mice who sneak into their neighbor's yard and get into a mud-slinging battle with the new kid living there. It's a short, simple story, and it kept my kids' attention. My only criticism would be that there is some name-calling involved (the term "cry-baby" gets used twice, and Benny calls Penny and the new kid "dumb girls"), which I don't think is all that great for young kids to read. But other than that, it's a perfectly good children's comic book.
See a preview here. You can buy it from Amazon here: Benny and Penny: The Big No-No