Creator: various writers and artists
Publisher: Robinson
Age Rating: All Ages
Genres: Action, Drama, Fantasy
RRP: $18.50
The Mammoth Book of Best New Manga v1
Reviewed by Kelvin Green

Such is the quantity and variety of content in this book that it's going to be difficult to review in any detail; you get over five hundred pages of comic goodness for your money here, and it's all pretty good stuff (although purists beware; the majority of the content is not from Japan). It's not all to my particular tastes, but the eclectic nature of the book is one of its strengths, I think; suffice to say that there's going to be something in here for any reader of manga. I'm not even going to attempt to tackle the whole book, but I can pick out some of my favourites.

Andi Watson presents the opening chapter of his new book, Princess at Midnight, and it's a delight. At first glance, the simplistic artwork and uncomplicated plotting might mark this story for young readers only, but it would be a grave mistake to overlook the story, as there's a neat satire on war and imperialism in there, and Watson is a fantastic storyteller; his grasp of pacing, layouts and panel composition is absolutely flawless.

Bulldog: Empire is a cracking self-contained sci-fi adventure that plunges anthropomorphic animals and plants, and their transforming robot biplanes into a war with a stuffy moral majority from a parallel world and their coal-powered transforming robot trains. As you might be able to tell from that description, Bulldog is inventive bit of fun, and it's one of the best looking stories in the book, but there's some depth too, with well-written characters and some interesting tricks with metafiction.

Fehed Said and Shari Chankhamma's The Healing is another strong self-contained story, particularly in its successful creation of a well-realised fantasy world in just a handful of pages. The art is delicate, yet has a grotesque look appropriate to the setting, and the character and environment designs are interesting and evocative. The plot is a little predictable in places, but even so, the story packs a considerable emotional punch.

Not all of the stories have a sci-fi or fantasy flavour; some are just well told stories of normal people living normal lives. Of these, my favourite by far is Sofia Falkenhem's Instant Noodles, an utterly genuine tale of broken relationships, moving on with one’s life, and a misplaced bass guitar. The characters are well-written and realistic and the art has an attractive rugged, sketchy quality to it. The strip's straightforward honesty carries with it a great deal of charm, making it easily one of the best stories in the whole book.

All that said, my favourite strips of the whole lot come from Selina Dean, whose work lies somewhere between Osamu Tezuka and Junko Mizuno, and those aren't at all bad influences to have. Dean's work combines simplified, almost cutesey, art with exceptional storytelling skill, and stories that are an equal mix of darkness and sweetness. Although Snails Don't Have Friends is a great piece of work, most notably for its "silent" storytelling, the other story, Bad Luck, is more personal and evocative, and as such is my favourite of the two.

The many stories I've not mentioned are all strong pieces too, and all in all, this is an excellent collection, both for the quality and the diversity of the included works. It's also excellent value, coming in at around the same price as some slimmer volumes, and would be worth the price if only half of the content was included. Unreservedly recommended.


11 January 2007
Bleach v16

10 January 2007
Vagabond v5



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