WHY I LIKE WHAT I LIKE: Buzz, Burnout, and Spelling Bees

I love reading comic books, but if I’m being completely honest with you — and I like to think we’ve reached that point by now — some days it’s harder for me to really decompress from all my other drama and just enjoy a good story. There have been a few points over the years where I’ve become so obsessed with pursuing the next big crossover or Kickstarter campaign or redesigned hardcover edition that I forget to actually read the books I’m buying. Inevitably, those are the moments when I hit “burnout”; when I can no longer distinguish the books that are actually good from the ones I’ve bought simply out of habit, and so I give up on all of them entirely.

Usually it’s a couple weeks before I’m finally cognizant enough to step back and realize what I’m doing to myself, and by then it can be difficult to remember why I ever loved reading these silly stories in the first place. Fortunately, there are a few comics I can always rely on to rekindle the fire in me. Today I’ll be taking some time to briefly talk/gush about one of them.

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ONE PIECE OF THE ACTION: Whiskey, 100 Bounty Hunters, and Jackie Chan

You know I’ve talked about a couple comic books now, even a few manga, and yet I’m surprised I haven’t yet mentioned one of my all-time favorite comic books: One Piece. To very quickly summarize, One Piece (ワンピース) is a story about a crew known as the Straw Hat Pirates led by their Captain – Monkey D. Luffy – as they traverse vast oceans and dangerous islands in search of a mythical treasure known as the One Piece. Written and drawn by the insanely talented Eiichiro Oda, One Piece was first released back in July of 1997 in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump and has been releasing chapters on a near-weekly basis for over 21 years, with no signs of stopping anytime soon. It has a small but substantial following here in America but that pales in comparison to the cultural juggernaut it has become in Japan covering books, a TV show, dozens of movies, and even an amusement park. With over 440 million volumes sold worldwide at the time of this writing, One Piece has surpassed titles including Bleach, Naruto and all of the Dragon Ball series to become the best-selling manga of all time.

Now to clarify, this post is not going to be one big all-encompassing review of the series; there have already been many, many in-depth reviews and professional think pieces that can give you a much better understanding of One Piece than I could ever dream of matching here. Instead, I’m going to narrow my focus to a single chapter – Chapter 108 to be specific – and dig into the reasons why I think it works so well.

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Z Reviews “BARRAGE” By Kōhei Horikoshi

Whether you’re a reader who enjoys comic books of the Japanese variety or you’re a connoisseur of action-packed shonen anime, chances are high you’re familiar with the hit series Boku No Hero Academia (僕のヒーローアカデミア), or My Hero Academia as it’s called here in the States. Created by writer/artist Kōhei Horikoshi, the story – a class of students learning how to become the next generation of superheroes – has become a critical and financial success with interesting characters, solid artwork, and intriguing commentary on the concept of heroism. With nearly 200 chapters as of this writing, as well as an anime adaptation, a spin-off series (the first volume of which I covered here), and a feature length movie coming soon to theaters, My Hero Academia and Horikoshi show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

It’s easy to look at success stories like these and assume the people behind them came up with a winning concept on their first try, but of course the reality is that like many of Horikoshi’s peers in the creative fields, the path to stardom was a long and winding road. Case in point, while the first chapter of Academia was released back in 2014, Kōhei Horikoshi has been working steadily as a writer and artist since 2007. Academia is actually his third series to be published in the weekly Shonen Jump magazine, preceded by Oumagadoki Zoo (逢魔ヶ刻動物園) back in 2010 and Barrage (戦星のバルジ) in 2012. For whatever reason neither Zoo nor Barrage seemed to click with readers, neither of them lasting longer than a year or so before being cancelled, their failures ultimately enabling Horikoshi to pursue his most prolific work to date.

Being a big fan of My Hero Academia, I was curious if I could find any copies of Zoo and Barrage to peruse and see how Horikoshi’s work has developed overtime, though I didn’t hold out much hope. Sadly, as is the case with a lot of manga series that get cancelled early on in their runs, there is little chance if any for officially translated copies to make their way over stateside, not counting the underground efforts of dedicated fans. The results of my amateur search efforts bore bittersweet fruit; while there are no official English translations of Oumagadoki Zoo available at the moment, Viz Media has graciously released both volumes of Barrage in print and in digital format. Having sat down to read the complete series, I thought I could take a moment to discuss Kōhei Horikoshi’s second official series, Barrage, aka The Series That Had To Die So My Hero Academia Could Live.

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Z Reviews “TEEN TITANS: YEAR ONE”

By all accounts, the Teen Titans have arguably never had as much focus on them as they have in the past few weeks. On the television side of things, DC kicked off the promotion campaign for it’s new streaming service with the trailer for a new live-action Titans series, generating millions of views on YouTube alone. Meanwhile, the Teen Titans Go! animated series started it’s fifth season on Cartoon Network and released their first feature-length movie in theatres to much critical praise. One might assume that fans of the team would be thrilled, and yet based on the chatter online the reaction from fans has been polarizing at best and downright hateful at worst.

Speaking only for myself, I have never been the biggest fan of the Teen Titans, my primary exposure to them being the animated series that ran from 2003 to 2006. I could tell you the names of certain characters and a little bit about their history, but honestly I’ve never felt particularly motivated to check out more of their stories in any medium, comics or otherwise. Still, I thought with all this attention being put on the team and all these different interpretations of the characters, maybe it was time to educate myself. With that in mind, I thought I’d go back to the beginning and take a look at stories that covered the team’s origins, starting with the 2008 comic book miniseries Teen Titans: Year One.

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Z Reviews “GENERATION GONE” Vol. 1

Whether you’re a fan of them or not, it’s impossible to deny that superheroes are just about everywhere these days. These characters, whose colorful adventures once sold for a nickel a piece on newspaper stands and spinner racks, have now exploded into a worldwide pop culture phenomenon that generates billions of dollars and dominates not only comic books but also film, television and far, far too many streaming services. With so many to choose from and only so much time in the day, it’s only natural for audiences to gravitate towards the more established characters and stories, rather than spend their time and money on something they might not even be into.

My own comic-buying experience has been no exception. While I’ve often walked into the bookstore with the intent to try something new, the truth is that nine times out of ten I’ve ended up walking out with something “safe” or “reliable” like Batman or Captain America. It’s only in the last year that I’ve made an effort to force myself outside my comfort zone, avoiding old favorites from Marvel and DC in favor of new titles from publishers like Image, Boom Studios, Dark Horse and Viz Media. Though not every book I’ve picked up has been a winner, there are times when I stumble across a book that gets me genuinely excited. This month, that comic is Generation Gone Volume One.

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Z vs FAN SERVICE!!!

‘SUP, DUDE.

oh no

YEP. YOUR’RE DOING IT AGAIN.

Leave me alone.

DONE DEAL. REAL QUICK BEFORE I GO: WHAT’S YOUR WORD COUNT AT RIGHT NOW?

Shut up! I’m refining my process.

OH, SHAME ON ME FOR INTERRUPTING THE BARD WHILE HE’S AT WORK.

Weren’t you supposed to be me, like my subconscious or whatever? You’re being awfully snippy.

WOULDST THE BARD LIKE ME TO TONE-ETH DOWN THE SASS?

I thought the whole point of you was to help me with my writing. This isn’t getting me anywhere.

WHY ARE YOU STILL DOING IT, THEN?

I don’t think I can even remember at this point.

LET ME ASK YOU THIS: HOW MUCH TIME HAVE YOU ACTUALLY SPENT WRITING SINCE THE LAST POST?

Since the introduction? Like, right after! I don’t remember anything about the last two days that doesn’t involve writing, in fact beyond my immediate surroundings I have no idea what’s going on in the world. California could have sunk into the Pacific Ocean yesterday and I’d be none the wiser. You’d think with all that time I’d have something to show for it but PBBTPBBTPBBTPBBTPBBT

ARE YOU HAVING A STROKE?

I’m fine! I was trying to do a sound effect thing, like when you make a raspberry noise with your mouth? Like that. I’ve got nothing, is what I mean to say. Give me a break.

SOUNDS LIKE YOU’RE HAVING A PRETTY ROUGH GO OF IT.

I got four hours of sleep last night, so yes, on the whole I’d describe things right now as “shaky”. Also “blurry”. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m sitting down.

NOT ALL BAD THOUGH, RIGHT?

I mean yeah, sure, not completely terrible. When I’m just “talking” or whatever you want to call it, that part’s pretty fun. But then I try to get into the real stuff I want to talk about it doesn’t click. I’m trying to come at it from different angles and none of it sounds like me.

WHAT WERE YOU GONNA TALK ABOUT?

Well, it’s kind of an awkward topic. I’m trying to spin it in a way where it doesn’t sound stupid, but there’s really no way to talk about it where I come off looking good.

I THINK THAT PARTICULAR SHIP LEFT THE PORT A WHILE BACK.

Let me dream, darn you! Or darn me?! I still don’t get how this works and I’m the one writing it!!!

CHILL, DUDE. IT’S PROBABLY NOT AS BAD AS YOU’RE MAKING IT OUT TO BE. WHY DON’T YOU BREAK IT DOWN.

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