Manga Noir? Yes Please! Catch Its for Aug 25th, 2021

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

Rob's Picks:

Gamma Draconis by Benoist Simmat, Eldo Yoshimizu, Lauren Bowes, and Mark Bourbon-Crook, Published by Titan Comics
Comic book characters never learn, do they? Don't investigate the occult. It never, ever ends well. Lucky for us as the reader! Aiko Moriyama is an art student with an eye on the religious, but when she gets hooked into studying some occult work, things quickly spiral out of control. Soon she's replacing lecture halls and art galleries for secret talks and dark alleys as she's drawn into a web of intrigue. It's a fast-paced plot from Simmat (more on him from my colleague Kelli below) that keeps moving, aided by the artwork of Yoshimizu. My God, he draws the hell out of this graphic novel. The details are at the level of George Perez, which is about the highest complement I can give on background work. Even better, he's done an amazing job of varying the panels and packing them to the gills, all the while ensuring that the pages don't look either cramped or same-y. This is a great comic that should be on the radar of anyone who enjoys a good crime story in graphic form.

Essential Judge Dredd Book 3: Origins by John Wagner, Kev Walker, Carlos Ezquerra. Chris Blythe, and Annie Parkhouse, published by 2000AD/Rebellion
The cool thing about the world of Judge Dredd is that it keeps on moving, 44 years and counting. The hard part is that it can sometimes be hard for a newer reader to jump in. Or even to just sample things to see how they like it. 2000AD/Rebellion is working hard to help this by creating the "Essential" series. This third edition looks at how the Judges came to be. Featuring some art by Kev Walker, the majority of the work is by Dredd co-creator Carloz Ezquerra, working with the other co-creator, John Wagner. President Booth is bombing and only the actions of Judge Fargo can "save" Mega-City 1. If you can call the hellscape that is Judge Dredd's world saved. It's a trip into the past by the men who first conceived of Dredd and his world. Walker's art is a bit of an acquired taste, but it's always fun to see more Ezquerra Dredd, even if I quite honestly like him best in black and white. If you are one of those people who are a bit unsure about Dredd, here's a great place to start.

Kelli's Picks:

Lil’ Leo by Moto Hagio Published by Denpa 
Those who know Moto Hagio’s name from titles like The Heart of Thomas [a phenomenal read, but sadly out of print], Other World Barbara and most recently The Poe Clan, might be surprise to see her name attached to a story about an anthropomorphized kitten. Where is the angst, the tragedy; the sexual tension?  There isn’t any.  Lil’ Leo is all about the adventuresome kitten Leo, who believes if something is possible, he will give it a try.  So Lil’ Leo goes to school, gets an editorial job, tries his hand at acting, works as a manga assistant, and even attends marriage interviews. A charming and funny manga for fans of classics like Stuart Little. 

Gamma Draconis by Benoist Simmat, Eldo Yoshimizu, Lauren Bowes, and Mark Bourbon-Crook, Published by Titan Comics  
Simmat and Yoshimizu team up to bring readers a story three years in the making, Gamma Draconis.  It’s an action packed thriller, that centers around Aiko Moriyama a religious art student at the Sorbonne.  Moriyama’s research, which focuses on the occult, pulls her into a web of intrigue and murder.  She finds herself fighting for her life as sinister forces conspire against her and those around her. I stumbled upon Eldo Yoshimizu’s art while scrolling Twitter. He does some really detailed and interesting work.  His character design is illustrative, more realistic and less stylized than that of most mainstream manga.  His panel composition is really solid as well, he incorporates really interesting POVs, it’s like watching a film. His backgrounds are delicious and the detail is insane. They really help to ground the story which hops around landmarks in the UK, France and Japan. The story is written by Benoist Simmat.  He works primarily in non-fiction and as a screenwriter, although he did author a couple of graphic novels about the wine industry.  For Gamma Draconis, Simmat wanted to write a story about the occult, trans-humanism and the dark side of the internet. I’ll definitely pick this manga based on visuals alone.  I hope the story is as solid as the art work. 

Saint Young Men Vol.6, By Hikura Nakamura, Published by Kodansha 
As per usual, there is no synopsis for this volume, so I have no idea what these two boys get up to in this instalment of Nakamura’s Saint Young Men.  Expect moments of absurdity and high jinks as Jesus and Buddha continue their extend earthly vacay.  Volume 5 saw Mary making a surprise visit to Jesus and Buddha hoping her son could make her some wine. Buddha reached out to his nemesis, Mara, for a second hand cell phone and Jesus experienced another Christmas in Japan, where the holiday is less of a religious event and more of a date night.  The scene where he goes to pick up his birthday/Christmas cake and asked for the decoration to be of him, but half-naked and dead, was golden!  Oh, and when he admitted that he was jealous of Santa Claus, and was considering banning St. Nicholas from the church, I was in tears. I can’t wait to see what Nakamura has in store for us with volume 6.