Markley’s Fevered Brain: House of the Rising Sun

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

Many years ago I lived in New Orleans for a number of years where I was the manager of the warehouse for Capital City Distribution. While I was there, one day in walked a cheery fellow by the name of Beau Smith along with Bo Hampton. They were in town and stopped by to promote (well Beau did, as that is what he does, Bo Hampton was along for the ride and sort of plugging his book, Lost Planet) and Beau gave my some copies of Eclipse Comics newest books at the time, Lum, Area 88, and Mai the Psychic Girl, and a Lum t-shirt. Eclipse was co-publishing these books with Viz to help Viz get their footing in the American market before Viz took over all of the distribution and publishing aspects themselves and went onto to become a publishing powerhouse of manga. (Month after month, they have at least seven of the top ten selling manga collections in book stores.) I tell this story because it was my first introduction to manga. Lum was a fun comedy about an alien space girl, Area 88 was a dramatic war story, and Mai was a brilliant story about a young girl with psychic powers. At the time (the late ‘80s), I had no idea what a vast world of manga there was. Since then I have read a fair amount of manga, but nowhere near as much as some people I know, so I in no way claim to know this market as well as I really should. But that does not stop me from prattling on about the manga I have read and really enjoyed. This blog is about three of those titles, all of which are recent releases and all of what I consider, in my limited knowledge, some of the best out there, at least recently.

Batman and the Justice League

Batman and the Justice League


First off we have Batman and the Justice League which has just been printed in English for the first time by DC Comics, translated from the original manga. It is written and drawn by Shiori (Saint Seiya) Teshirogi. This manga originally appeared in Japan in Champion Red magazine as a monthly serial. Now DC is collecting the stories into 200 page graphic novels. But to be true to the original manga, they are printing the books right to left, like in Japan. The basic story is about a Japanese boy who comes to Gotham to find his parents, where he just happens to meets Commissioner James Gordon. And later Batman. The gist is the Joker and Lex Luthor are joining forces to create a mind control plague to take over the world. It turns out the boy has special powers that deal with Earth’s Ley Lines. The boy’s parents also had these special powers but they were supposedly killed in an accident in Gotham, thus why he came to Gotham from Japan. This first chapter is a quick paced story with a few spots in the story that are kind of hard to believe, but it does not hinder the enjoyment of the overall tale. A quick example of this is Bruce Wayne comes down from the upstairs to meet the boy and Gordon and he is all bandaged up from a fight the night before and Alfred blames it on rough date. The art flows nicely from panel to panel and page to page even though it is not at all like the traditional looks of the characters. Superman and Batman look very young, as if they are in their late teens. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are even harder to immediately identify. And the art definitely has a Japanese feminine style to it. (In manga, depending on who the audience the book is and who the creator is, the styles tend to fall into two different categories, and this story falls into the feminine one, and this is a vast over simplification of manga.) There are also character designs and a brief interview with the author in the back. Overall, I do not think this book will appeal to fans of the current Justice League, but I do not think that is DC’s goal. I think they are trying to reach the huge audience of girls/women who like manga, and not being a girl or a woman, I found it very enjoyable and a breath of fresh air from many of the American versions of the current DC roster.

Frankenstein - The Junji Ito Story Collection

Frankenstein – The Junji Ito Story Collection


Frankenstein by Junji Ito is the newest volume in Viz Media’s collections of Junji Ito’s work in deluxe hardcover volumes. As with all of the previous volumes (Shiver, Gyo, Tomie, Uzumaki, Fragments of Horror), this is a gorgeous collection of stories that will leave you sleepless for days. The lead story is an adaptation of the classic novel Frankenstein. This story runs almost 200 pages and is very faithful to Mary Shelly’s original novel, although it does have lots of Ito’s trademark touches. I should note this is not the Frankenstein from the Universal monster movies with Boris Karloff. In addition to Frankenstein there are 10 more short stories included bring this book to almost 400 pages. Of these ten short stories, six of them are about Oshikiri-a student who lives in a decaying house that is connected to a haunted dimension. These are sort of short stories of different types with Oshikiri being the thread through all of them. As with many of Ito’s works, they tend to be very creepy. The other four stories are more suspenseful than horrific, but equally as good. I have never read an Ito book (and I have read a lot) that I would not recommend. Including this one. A bargain at the price for such a large hardcover with so much material.

Battle Angel Alita Deluxe Edition Vol. 4

Battle Angel Alita Deluxe Edition Vol. 4


Finally we have the Battle Angel Alita Deluxe Editions, which five of the six are currently out. These are just beautiful over-sized hardcovers reprinting the entire Battle Angel Alita saga and it includes the color pages from the original manga. I cannot believe how beautiful the reproduction in these volumes are and how great Yukito Kishiro’s art is. I first read these stories back in the late 1980s when Viz first did the comics in America. At the time, I really enjoyed the stories as they are a wild mix of action, adventure, cyberpunk and science fiction. But these deluxe volumes are much larger than the original comics, almost the size of a magazine, and they showcase the art and show so many little details I missed all those years ago. Just stunning. Plus each volume comes in at almost 400 pages of action and extras. While I love all of the first five volumes, if you really want the full experience, Kodonsha (the publisher of this series) will be releasing a box set of all six volumes in a beautiful slipcase in time for Christmas. This is a gift that any fan of manga, science fiction, cyberpunk, or just great comics would love.

This is it for this time. There are hundreds of manga I have not read or likely have not even or heard of, but I would like to. So what manga do you read? What do you enjoy? Why? Let me know and I will try some of them and review them in a future column. I can be reached at MFBWAY@aol.com or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. Everything I have written here are my words and thoughts and do not reflect the opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees (or even Beau Smith! My fellow columnist). As always…

Thank you.

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