Imagine two crime bosses coming together while their ranks fight it out in the streets. Instead of fighting themselves, they devise a plan to keep their city from falling apart from their gang wars. One of them offers a son, and the other his daughter. The plan—they start dating and the syndicates use it as a bridge to stop their fighting for good. The problem—their kids don’t like each other. This is the premise to Naoshi Komi’s 2012 hit manga and now anime called Nisekoi: False Love that currently runs in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. This twist on the average love story has garnered much popularity and sparked 2 seasons of an anime and counting. Its premise seems simple at first, but add to that multiple love interests and a confused male hero and you’ve got yourself a hit rom-com that connects with everyone.
The story centers on Raku, a boy whose father runs the Yakuza in the area. He’s well-mannered, he cooks, he cleans, and he does well in school. All traits of most female characters. The other main character is Chitoge, a girl whose father runs the mafia in her part of town. She’s athletic, she’s often insensitive, and she’s super good looking. Traits of a typical male character in a love story. Together, they make our fake couple with the goal of keeping their family organizations convinced that they truly care for each other so the city doesn’t suffer. The only hitch is that they are complete opposites and can’t stand each other. This problem becomes the funniest and most compelling part of the story to watch and genuinely keeps you invested to the end.
What makes Nisekoi interesting lies in the premise’s ability to make its way into every part of the characters’ lives. And unfortunately, though it helps their families, it has some negative effects on their social lives. On top of the entire school touting them as a new power couple, Raku is unable to tell the girl he truly likes that it’s just a fake relationship. Of course, in true romance fashion, Raku has no idea that the girl he likes, Onodera, actually likes him back. To complicate it more, other girls fall in love and compete for Raku’s love which challenges Chitoge’s fake love. But what follows is not a tale of just competition, but honestly a tale of friendship and honesty. Each character’s affections for Raku only bring them closer to each other as they realize they all want the same things in a romantic partner. It also allows Raku to showcase his caring personality that reflects the idea that a truly good person will be good to anyone without having to have a reason.
Now, you’re probably wondering how is this in Shonen Jump? Where are the action pages and crazy super powers? I thought this was for boys who like action and not some Shōjo manga for girls? Well, here’s where Komi really shows his stuff. Certain characters in the mafia or Yakuza will showcase prowess beyond human belief. Chitoge even displays unearthly strength and athleticism and her bodyguard, Tsugumi, is actually a trained assassin. That’s right, assassin. It’s the mafia, so it works. The action here is rare, but the dosage is right on the mark for the magazine’s usual crowd and it always makes sense in the narrative. But what’s interesting is that a romance manga can be clever enough to be both semi-action oriented while also presenting itself as a non-typical romance story and get away with it in an action magazine for boys.
And it’s not just for boys! It’s easy to think that Chitoge or Onodera could end up as just eye candy for the male fanbase, but the modesty in which Komi draws them with is unheard of for the medium. Never are they presented as pinups or sexual figures. In fact, Raku ends up shirtless probably more times than any of them even approach the line of sexually appealing in an overt way. There are even other male characters that get the spotlight like Raku’s best friend Shu and he even gets his own love triangle too. This story is just as much for boys as it is girls in that it showcases both sides’ thoughts and feelings equally. What Nisekoi achieves is a balance between what both sexes would like to see in a manga about real relationships while maintaining the expectations of a shonen manga.
Onscreen, the anime does the series justice in that we get to see the humorous situations and reactions in real time, and it honestly translates better that way. Much of the humor of the series is in physical comedy, so the show really gets an advantage there. The anime covers everything almost perfectly and the art style is well-mimicked from the pages. No character feels flat at any time and the music always sets the scenes well.
If you’re interested in a funny and different kind of love story, then check out Nisekoi: False Love. It’s a must read for both Shonen and Shojo fans. If you’re like me and you get invested pretty quickly, you’ll even find yourself rooting for one of the girls in particular and hoping their dreams come true. I’m unashamedly on Team Chitoge.
You can check out both seasons of Nisekoi on Hulu and purchase the manga at any major bookstore.
In the field of illustration, few men make waves the way they once did when they started out. The true greats blaze a trail until they finally put down the pencil and never grow stagnant with the coming talents. That was Joe Kubert and with his passing goes a lifetime of incredible gifts he has given us along the way.
Joe Kubert will be remembered for his War stories; for his barbarian stories; for his school. But he will also be remembered by this artist as a man who kept up with the times and crafted brilliant works of art every day of his life without any show of wear and tear. Kubert inspired with textured lines and expressive forms to tell some of the most exhilarating stories in the graphic novel medium. It’s easy to lose the groove or have your style fade with the oncoming artists, but Joe never let his work become dated. In fact, he used his artistry to empower his strengths as an illustrator by telling stories that not only suited his style, but stories that carried his own voice through each wonderful endeavor. Stories that only he could tell.
There’s a lot to be said about a man who started a school for comic book illustrators. A man with two very popular and talented sons that not only work in the industry, but also teach at the school their father started. A family of individuals with very different styles that came together to work FOR the art. It’s powerful and it’s the reason why, when I first looked at colleges, the Joe Kubert School of Art was my top pick. It had never been done before and it was headed by the master himself. Though I didn’t have the money, I longed for that experience and to this day I still dream of attending. What masterful things he could have taught me. What a different artist I would be.
Joe has left us with a legacy that will not only carry on, but he has also left us as a prominent figurehead of both respect and talent to be revered by generations to come. And though we artists are quick to site the ones that crafted us; the ones we love; and the ones that helped us develop our own style, deep below all of that pizzazz is the strong foundation that Joe Kubert started and continued being until his death and even now into the future for artists everywhere just beginning to pick up a pencil.
I will remember him always and like the many artists before him, I will never forget what he’s given me and I will strive to keep his work alive for the sake of what I believe to be the most important form of art in existence. Thank you, Joe. You aren’t just a legend–you are a hero.
This week I’m officially announcing my reinstatement as a True Believer. DC has forsaken its fanbase so that they can gain sales and write to new readers—something admirable in essence, but also something disappointing to longtime readers. The further into their new 52, the worse I see their super hero comics getting. With the exception of Green Lantern (which has been slow going, but finally returned to form), and the Batman books, only the horror books like Animal Man have really struck a strong chord of quality writing and illustration. The others are seemingly struggling between exposition-heavy character reintroductions or action-heavy beat-em-ups that give little to no character development.
With that said, Marvel has outdone themselves lately. The quality of storytelling and illustration coming from their Architects has truly grown their line in a way that I would not have thought possible just 5 years ago. I’m reading Spider-Man again and loving it. One More Day? I don’t think so. X-Men books? You betcha! And even the freakin’ Avengers have my nod. To that I give you my top five picks of this week and why I think they deserve to be noticed amongst all the other dribble out there.
The Amazing Spider-Man # 684
Dan Slott gets it. I’ve been saying that a lot lately. Single-handedly he has been undoing and fixing the issues that really destroyed Peter Parker for me as a longtime fan. In this third chapter we get not only more great characterization from Peter’s labmates at Horizon labs, but also more on the fact that Peter Parker is a scientific genius to be reckoned with. Yeah, he and the Avengers got their asses handed to them by the Sinister Six, but he gets away and he gets the last laugh as Sandman becomes the first of Doc Ock’s pawns to go down. This issue is everything you want—Spidey doing his science thing, hot ladies holding their own, giant evil plots, action-packed fun, and all the great Spidey one-liners you know you love, but hate to admit. Toss in some high energy pencils by veteran and hyperstylized artist Humberto Ramos and you’ve got yourself a blockbuster event with your friendly neighborhood buddy leading the way. Slott gets it. And if you ever in your life ever loved Spider-Man for any amount of time, then I promise you that now is your time. This is YOUR Spider-Man. And the best part is that in every book he appears in, all the writers are onboard with the same approach to the character. This Spidey is here to stay and so am I.
Peter David has earned the title of the most reliable writer in the history of comic books for this book alone. I have yet to pick up this book and be disappointed. He can trade out artists and do crazy story arcs on werewolves or space aliens or just plain old street thugs and every issue is solid gold. Let’s do a headcount of the misfists: The joking Strong Guy; the angry and sexy M; Gay couple Rictor and his warrior boyfriend Shatterstar; cocky ladies’ man, Longshot; Sultry and emotionally unstable Siren; religiously tormented Wolfsbane; and the oddest couple of Layla Miller who knows stuff and the ever flawed Multiple Man, Jamie Madrox. Madrox comes back from reality hopping while M tries to kill Layla for possibly bringing him back to life at the cost of his own soul. There are hints dropped about an abysmal future while in the background a demon and a new villain have teamed up with murder on their minds. This book reads like all your favorite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. Quippy dialogue and great jokes coupled with really emotional character struggles bring this book to the forefront of my reading list. It’s strong and adventurous in all the ways that I often wish modern comics would at least attempt. I find myself actually caring about these characters like their my own friends and as unhealthy as that sounds—it’s actually a really solid plus in David’s corner as a great writer. Keep it up, but seriously don’t kill off my friends.
New Mutants #41
I go back and forth with this issue in my comics, but I find that I’m drawn to team books with large casts rather than single character books. The only problem with that notion is that team books are hard to write well and it gets harder to juggle multiple characters. New Mutants on the other hand has proven to me that every now and then a good team book comes out swinging and never goes down. This book has yet to disappoint me and I find that, like X-Factor, I really dig these characters as individuals and as members of a larger team. This issue focuses on a one-and-done recovery after a near death experience with the evil Animator that killed Doug Ramsey once before. Conqering their foe and making it back home has left the team weary, but the party hungry free-spirit that is Blink won’t have it. It’s time to party! The only action is a bar fight between a drunken Sunspot as he attempts to learn the “language of love” from Doug’s power of understanding all language. The rest is humorous partying and really nice snipets of our team members as they show their true colors when they are not on the battlefield or being hated as mutants every day of their lives. And that’s what makes this book so loveable! We have our back and forth romances and our crazy moments filled with action and horror, but the core of this book is the fact that each of these characters could have stories written about them for hundreds of years while their best features really seem to glow in a team setting. Even better is the absurdities that the team faces; be it a monstrous living parasite that has taken over an entire island or just the team’s paranoia as their teammate Magma goes on a date with the devil himself. The real heart of this book is the individual search for self in all of the cast members. The sense of individuality and self worth constantly weighs on their shoulders at varying degrees in such a way that in all their humorous endeavors and violent battles there is always something deeper that lets the reader feel exactly as they are. All of their quirky powers and traits blend so well together that I can’t stop smiling with each turn of the page—eager to see what happens next. That’s how it’s done. The combo of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning with artist David Lopez has brought me many great issues and I know that I’ll keep this one on my list as long as they keep delivering the goods. Oh and they brought fan favorite Blink back. ‘Nuff said!
I’m saying this a lot lately—Scott Snyder is the new Geoff Johns. His mega story arc, Night of the Owls, is the proof as he has now rallied all the Batman writers to his cause and created one of the most horrifying and exciting stories for the Dark Knight in all of the character’s history. This issue begins the fray right at home as the Court of Owls attacks Bruce and Alfred at home in a swarming frenzy while a defenseless Alfred must put out the call to all of the Bat family. Like a brilliant kung-fu flick, Bruce takes on members of the Court one by one and all at once—touting to his fans just how badass the Batman really is. What’s more interesting is that the incredible script writing is almost overshadowed by stellar performances by artists Greg Capullo and, one of my favorites, Raphael Albuquerque. These two masters of darkness and shadows really create the ambiance that is necessary to make this epic feel visceral and scary in all the right ways. It plays like a movie and the whole time you’re on the edge of your seat. This book sells itself. I can’t tell you enough how good this series is and if you miss it then you really are missing out on a piece of history. What these creators are doing with Batman will be talked about for decades to come. Don’t miss out and when you do get to it, make sure you read it a few times—Snyder is a clever one and likes to hide things right under your nose. Go get ‘em, detective…
Wolverine and the X-Men #9
I have been waiting on this book for a long time. The X-Men are back to their heart and really hitting all the right notes in this amazingly well-written and astoundingly well drawn series by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo. This book is stylish, edgy, funny, epic, scary, heartfelt, smart, and downright fun on every level. From the get-go, this book has won me over with the establishment of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. We’ve already been attacked by the new Hellfire Club run by the devilish child, Kade Killgore. The island the school rests on is alive. Sabretooth tried to kill Beast and failed. Did I mention that Angel thinks he’s a real angel, the reincarnated Apocalypse is attending the school as a student, a brood child is attending as well with an I.Q. higher than pretty much everyone else, Shadowcat got filled with Broodlings that made her think she was pregnant, and Quentin Quire—probably the most powerful telepath on the planet—is a complete and utter authority-hating tool bent on destroying both the school and building a reputation for himself as the greatest person ever. This book is perfect and this particular issue captures the real threat of the Phoenix force on its way to Earth to take the teenage body of Hope Summers—the supposed mutant messiah. Where the other X-books feel like a war story ready to culminate with harsh realities and violence, this book shows a genuine return to what made the X-Men so appealing in the 90’s. There’s a particular scene after Captain America has confirmed with Beast over the Phoenix’s trajectory toward Earth where Shadowcat levels with Wolverine by asking him to tell her the truth. The look on her face and the dialogue of “O My God. It IS the Phoenix, isn’t it?” really sold the horror of the situation to me in a way that hasn’t really been captured in the other Avengers/X-Men books. For those of us who remember the many times the Phoenix has entered the X-books, we know the destruction and death it brings—and so do the core members of the X-Men who were there each time. Even Wolverine and Beast have a moment of last minute joking in order to avoid the possibility of sorrow concerning their very likely demise. This book is impressive on all fronts and never ceases to amaze me on every level. If you were ever a fan of X-Men and really wanted to get back to the fun and crazy times where the X-Men could have fun and still kick ass, then this is your book.
People ask me all the time why I read comics. Why I illustrate comics. Why comics are important to such a strange and passionate subculture. My answer is simple and can be applied to any artistic creation. Every comic is a testament of life. The lives of every person involved in its publication. The writers. The artists. The editors. The companies. The time periods in which they were published. The ethics and the values of those creators as they poured their passions and talents into a collaborative story. Every comic from every age is packed full of legacy. Lives that have gone praised and lives that are overlooked. Inkers forgotten and writers immortalized. It’s a medium that combines the best of two art forms into a versatile masterpiece for all avenues of viewers and readership.
In short, Comics are the product of the lives that created it from their very being—all for you, the reader, to enjoy and be affected by.
Comics are life. So pay your respects to those who are gone and honor the ones who give their lives to their work today. Because you are witnessing a historical documentation of their lives and the world around them.
Few comics these days leave me speechless while most do still inspire the medium far beyond its humble beginnings as children’s funny books. But none so epically gut-wrenching; uncomfortable; and unbelievably hard to put down as Scott Snyder’s run on Detective Comics entitled The Black Mirror.
It began with a crime mystery of mob bosses and kidnappings with a dead whale in the middle of a bank and a gang in the middle of a junkyard full of cars. Swiftly and soundly it progressed into what I’m sure is one of the most riveting mystery stories I’ve ever read. It’s dark and suspenseful with Detective James Gordon’s sociopathic son, James Jr., returning to the grim world of Gotham City a changed man. Years of drugs and therapy have cured him of his problems and his sanity no longer in question. Or is it? The dialogue between them is caustic and dreadful with tension the likes you’ve never seen. As a reader the edge of your seat is an understatement while Commissioner Gordon keeps his cautious eye on the boy who could have been his son.
The gripping tale twists and swerves with all eyes pointing to James Jr. finding in himself a devilish serial killer bent on revenge. Dismemberment and awkward situations position him as an equal rival to Batman’s Joker—who shows himself to be in withdrawal over the fact that Dick Grayson is batman. The Batman Joker knew is gone and the new one just isn’t the same. And there it is—the true beauty of this concept. For the past year Dick Grayson has struggled to find his own footing in the steps of his mentor as the savior of Gotham city. In this brief series of nasty tales we finally find a defining trait that combines the two. The psychotic antics and terrifying violent acts of the Joker have manifested themselves in a personal way for Dick as he confronts the younger brother of his long-time lover Barbara Gordon. This is Dick’s greatest challenge and even the Joker knows it.
The tension builds to a boil until Barbara is fighting for her life and every child in Gotham is at stake. The ending is creepy to a degree that I cannot express in words. It gives you warm feelings of hope for those that watch over Gotham City, but takes it away instantly in the final panel when the focus turns toward the city itself. This is one for the books, fellow readers. If you love a good detective story and are intrigued by the minds of serial killers, then this one is for you.
And the true stars are the artists. Jock, whose lines and unbelievably innovative paneling make this book really pop, is first on the list. His darker, sketchier style creates an atmosphere for Gotham like never before. He places his detail where it counts and though some may question his stylistic approach to the human figure, I found it an edgier, more modern approach to something so easily washed over with architectural blurs and dark shadows. His Batman is constantly cloaked in an array of bats–often darting off of the panel before the dialogue is finished, which is very reminiscent of the Batman Animated Series. But let’s not forget the incredibly talented artist Francesco Francavilla who started this escapade into darkness with a simple pallet of few eerie colors and beautifully rendered forms. His line work is impeccable and his consistency refreshing. His expressions dominated and his intuitive camera shots and angles made him a stand-out artist to really watch and learn from. I cannot wait to see what he does next! This was a clever initiative to have Francavilla draw the parts with James Jr. and his father, while Jock handles Dick Grayson. By the time these two artists reach the finale their work becomes one and the story flies off the page like a knife through your heart.
In short this series is going to be a trade to collect for anyone who loves a suspenseful mystery, a gruesome horror story, or just a wonderfully drawn epic with your favorite crime fighter. Snyder made his mark on the Dark Knight and the genre as a whole in a way that will not be forgotten for many years to come.