*"Wacky ape comics" is a strong synecdoche for "Silver Age superhero comics which everyone likes for reasons other than their actual quality." Wacky ape comics are kind of like the anti-Art Out of Time.
-I used to think Tom Spurgeon's weekly list of new releases was posted too late to do me any good. Then I moved to the Pacific time zone, allowing me to read these posts long before going out to purchase comics. Then I realized that the only nearby store carries only a small, small fraction of the items of interest to me. Then I started ordering things online. Yes, I will share my thoughts once my first shipment arrives. I'm cheap and have plenty of stuff to read already, so I elected for a single, end-of-the-month shipment.
-Book no one is talking about but which I recommend you check out: Cowa! by Akira Toriyama. Well, maybe people are talking about it in the larger manga blogosphere; I find it hard enough to keep up with what's going on in comics, what with also trying to keep up with the NFL (go Eagles, BTW), MMA, and the increasingly depressing world of politics.
But still: I haven't read much about Cowa!, but it's probably the manga I've most enjoyed reading this year. A few caveats: I still haven't read Good-Bye, Red Colored Elegy or Cat Eyed Boy. I also haven't read any of the Takehiko Inoue material released this year. And Dororo is certainly better than Cowa! in most ways. I just enjoyed Cowa! more. It's actually very similar to Joann Sfar's Little Vampire series, both in tone and premise. Like Little Vampire, I found Cowa! to be uproariously funny. Actually, as much as I like Dr. Slump, I probably laughed far more frequently at Cowa!, which has far fewer poop-related jokes (not that I mind the occasional bit of scatological humor, especially if someone as consistently funny as Toriyama is doing it, but there are probably about seven poop jokes in every volume of Dr. Slump).
What I really didn't expect, however, were the similarities to Toriyama's biggest hit, Dragonball. There are several fight scenes in this book, including an almost-epic one of which features an antagonist very similar to Toriyama's Buu. Toriyama is one of the great action artists of all time, and the sequences in Cowa! are about as energetic as anything I've ever read in a comic. One might expect this to be somewhat jarring, given that the rest of the book is generally light in tone; if the manga was adapted to the screen, you'd almost expect Ice Cube to star in the "gruff adult gradually charmed by rambunctious children while on road trip" role. But Toriyama injects a melancholic note by giving a dark past to the protagonist, a former sumo/pro wrestler named (but rarely called) Maruyama. And the tonal shift is gradual; the fight scenes grow in intensity as the stakes get higher. Toriyama, however, consistently and effectively injects humor into each fight scene as well.
It's a pleasing combination, especially given Toriyama's strong cartooning skills. Toriyama is also quite adept at using gray tones to create compelling compositions. Still, one almost wishes that the entire book were in color, as was the first chapter. (One certainly wishes that the second chapter, obviously originally published in color, hadn't been converted into too-dark gray tones). Given recent discussion of the limitations of the standard North American manga format in attracting adult readers, I couldn't help but wonder if Cowa! might have been better published in a format more reminiscent of a traditional children's book. Toriyama himself notes that he was attempting more of a storybook style with Cowa!, so the idea isn't completely baseless.
Of course, most people buying Cowa! in North America will presumably be established manga-philes. One can understand Viz' decision to use their standard format, so Cowa! will rest alongside volumes of Dragonball. Those who usually neglect these shelves would be well-advised to at least flip through Cowa!, particularly if they have enjoyed similar work by Sfar or Lewis Trondheim.
-So Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker are writing the Beast/Hank McCoy as Cornelius Bear, right?