The first four volumes of the Ultraman manga were bookended by the sentence “This is the beginning of a new age.” Volume 5 starts with that sentence, but ends with the sentence fading from the page – and that says a lot about where this volume of the manga ends.

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One of the first X-men comics I read was a collection of the first few issues of Age of Apocalypse, back when I was in middle school. While I have still yet to read the entire story, the bits I’ve read left something of an impression on me. When the Age of X-Man event began, I was interested in seeing X-Men writers take on a dystopia that’s different from many of the standard “Pile of Skulls” X-Men dystopia.

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I enjoyed Laid Back Camp a lot. Between its informative depictions of going camping in Japan, it’s interesting travelogue sequences, and it’s generally chill tone, it ended up being one of my favorite anime, and one where I was kind of sad to see it end, and glad to see the show get a second season. After hearing that the manga had been getting an English release, I decided to check out the first volume of the manga.

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There is running theory in stories with romances that the chase is better than the catch – that once characters in a romance get together, there is no motivation to continue the story. These are people who never watched Hart to Hart nor are familiar with Nick & Nora Charles. In the X-Books, probably the biggest of these romances, almost as much if not more so than Scott Summers and Jean Grey, was Gambit and Rogue. However, during the planned wedding of Kitty Pryde and Piotr Rasputin, things ended up not happening, leading to Rogue and Gambit basically deciding to take advantage of the opportunity and the two X-Men who could never tie the other down decided to get hitched.

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Laura Kinney, cropped from the cover of X-23 #1

This past year, when Marvel comics brought back Logan, someone else had already taken on the mantle of Wolverine – Laura Kinney, formerly known as X-23, complete with having her own book branded as All-New Wolverine. Marvel editorial decided that rather than letting Laura keep the code name (as they’ve done with the multiple Hawkeyes), Laura would renounce the code-name, and her book would re-launch and re-brand. Unfortunately, it causes this book to be something of a step back from All-New Wolverine in multiple respects.

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Top portion of the cover to Savage Sword of Conan #4

There aren’t a lot of fantasy comics out there, and the ones we get in the US are generally licensed from another property, whether Games like D&D or Pathfinder, or literary works like Game of Thrones, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, or Conan the Barbarian. So, when Marvel got the license to Conan comics again, I was interested, and when they re-launched their classic Conan titles – Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan, I added those books to my pull list.

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If I was going to describe 20th Century Boys in a high concept manner to someone in an elevator, I’d describe it as It meets The Stand. It’s a story that takes place over a vast scope of time, almost 30-40 years, with multiple time skips, and an apocalypse in-between, with a fundamental premise of a group of childhood friends being forced to face a great evil as adults. The difference is, the evil in It is a clearly supernatural, unearthly evil. The evil in 20th Century Boys is very, very human.

There are some spoilers below the cut.

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Cropped cover of Food Wars Vol. 1

When I reviewed Today’s Menu for Emiya Family, I was impressed not just by the charm of the story, but how well the anime depicted the act of cooking – how well it showed its work. It was a manga about family meals. This wasn’t just represented by the choices of food prepared in the work, but on how the series depicted eating. However, Food Wars Volume 1, which I’m reviewing today, kicked off a sort of boom of cooking anime and manga that lead to series like Emiya Family, and Food Wars could not be more different.

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Excerpt from the cover of House of X #1, with Cyclops, Jean Grey, Magneto, Wolverine, and an unknown 5th X-Man

Recently Marvel announced that, as part of Jonathan Hickman’s upcoming run on the X-Men books, the X-Line would be contracted to just two books – House of X and Powers of X, each with a 6-issue run. According to an interview with ComicBook.com, the decision was pitched by Hickman essentially to create a jumping on point for the line for new readers.

The argument makes sense – two books are cheaper than 10 and require less effort to keep track of a story across those books. However, the fundamental idea of the Mutant Metaphor – of Mutants being representative of multiple discriminated minority populations – requires representation not only in the form of the characters on the page but also in the form of the people writing stories with those characters.

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Ultraman cover art from volumes 1 & 12

If you think about it, superheroes have been a part of Japanese pop-culture ever since the post-war period, and in particular the 60s and 70s. Astro Boy is Pinocchio with Super-Powers. Characters like Shotaro Ishinomori’s Android Kikaider and Kamen Rider featured protagonists fighting a supervillain organizations and their superpowered minions, and so on. And, of course, there is the tokusatsu classic – Ultraman from Tsuburaya Productions.

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Excerpt of the cover of DC Comics Zero Year

DC Comics: Zero Year is meant to be something of a starting point for various characters in the DC Universe, showing Superman, Batman, and Catwoman in the early days, if not the start, of their superhero careers. The book also shows Dinah Lance, Barry Allen, Jason Todd, Dick Grayson, John Stewart, and Oliver Queen either before they started superheroing or, in the case of Barry and John, before they got their powers.

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After the end of The Victim Syndicate, I found the volume to be something of a missed opportunity – like the volume was deciding to take on one of the most cliched criticisms of Batman, a dead horse that was beaten into glue, and decided to address it by – not addressing it. By saying that Batman didn’t have an answer to a question that people who are a moderately serious superhero fan would have been able to answer immediately while reading the book.

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