R.I.P. Stan Lee

Today the world has lost a wonderful talent. Stan Lee, the creator of Marvel Comics has passed away. Stan Lee was the brains behind some of the most iconic super heroes and stories ever put to print. He had a way of standing up against injustice without engaging injecting partisan politics into his work. He will forever be known as one of the most sincere, kindest people in the business.

Rest in peace, Stan. EXCELSIOR!


Manga: Dragon Ball

It has been a rather busy month so I haven’t had time to make a post until now. What have I been doing? Well, when I haven’t been drilling my way through Xenogears (a really really REALLY long game), I’ve been jumping between RIFT and FFXIV. Also, last week my family went on a Spring Break vacation. During that downtime I managed to get a little reading in. So, as promised I’m here today with my first ever manga discussion: Dragon Ball.

Last month I talked a little bit about my experiences with manga. I was introduced to it during my stay in Japan, but I never really took the time to sit down and enjoy the format until many years later. The first ever manga series that hooked me was Chobits. (I’ll talk about Chobits in greater detail in the near future). When I was done with it, I found myself clamoring for more. Unsure what to read next, I thought back to my days in Japan. Back in those days, the only English-speaking channel was operated by the US military. More often than not, it offered little in the way of kid’s entertainment. So, my friends and I would often flip our televisions over to the local Japanese stations and check out whatever it was they were watching. At that time, Dragon Ball Z was all the rage. Yes, I can claim to have watched Dragon Ball during its initial run – IN JAPAN! (How many weaboo points does that get me?) Now, neither I or my friends really had any idea what was going on, but it was cool to watch nonetheless. With this in mind, I chose Dragon Ball as the next manga series to dive into.

At that time, I read maybe the first five or six volumes of Dragon Ball before monetary constraints put an end to my Manga purchases. But, I enjoyed every second. Recently, I acquired the entire collection. So what is Dragon Ball? Well, it initially starts out as a childish retelling of the ancient Chinese fable Journey to the West. But it doesn’t take long for the story to go off the rails and develop into its own thing.  One recurring theme in the story are the “Dragon Balls” themselves. The Dragon Balls are seven magical stones. Whoever can collect all seven of them is able to summon a mystical dragon who can grant any wish. The story begins when a young girl named Bulma encounters a strange orphan boy while she searches for the Dragon Balls. The boy, Goku, is in possession of one of the balls. The earliest stories in the Dragon Ball series focus on the adventures of Goku and Bulma as the search the world for the missing balls. During this time, Goku encounters an old kung fu master, The Turtle Hermit, and abandons his search to become a disciple. At this point, the focus of the story shifts to Goku and his mastery of the martial arts. (Astute readers of this site will undoubtedly recognize that I have adopted The Turtle Hermit referenced above as my avatar on this blog.)

Admittedly, the actually plot line is pretty darn weak, especially in the later volumes. But, that doesn’t detract from the fun. If anything, the shallow story and innocence of the lead character is part of what makes this story so entertaining.

The original series runs for sixteen volumes. After that, the title switches to “Dragon Ball Z“. In Japan, there’s no distinction between Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z in print, that’s strictly a branding that is used here in the west.

Dragon Ball starts out rather childish, but ramps up in maturity level pretty quickly. By the end of the sixteen-volume series, the target audience seems to shift from children to teenagers. That being said, there’s actually a noticeable amount of mature content in the book from the very beginning. This may seem a little strange considering the books are marketed to children, but keep in mind that Japanese culture doesn’t tend to be nearly as conservative about some things.

All in all, Dragon Ball is an addictive enjoyable manga series. I look forward to continuing my way through Dragon Ball Z and finally seeing what all those old cartoons were about.


Nerd Passion: Manga

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of comic books. It is also not a secret that I harbor a deep love for all things Japanese. So why have I never talked about manga? After all, manga are nothing more than Japanese Comic books! Well, there is a story there…

Back when I was a young lad living in Okinawa, my family briefly resided in an apartment building in downtown Ishikawa (now called Uruma).  My front yard was essentially a parking lot for a massive Pachinko parlor. So, for my brief stint living downtown whenever I wanted a place to play, instead of dodging traffic, I’d actually go out onto the rooftop of the apartment. Most of the kids in the apartment building would play up there. One day, while I was hanging out on the roof, I noticed that someone had left behind what looked like a thick phone book. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was a Japanese manga. Now, being an American, I had never seen anything like this. The content was much more mature than anything I’d ever come across in a Marvel or DC book. It was some sort of crime story and it was extremely violent. It was interesting, but not really my cup of tea. I flipped through it for a moment and then left it where I found it. Over the course of my three-year stay in Japan, I encountered many other manga books. But of course, not being able to read Japanese, I also didn’t give them much attention.

Fast forward several years later… I’m back in the USA and Japanese culture is gaining in popularity. I now see manga starting to pop-up in local bookstores. On a whim, I pick up a book that looks interesting and bring it home. This book was Chobits, a story about a young man and his personal android companion. I become hooked instantly and ended up reading the entire series in just a few days. Sadly, the cost of these little books was a little too high for my budget at the time. So, I decided to willingly put off this new hobby for the time being.

Time goes by and anime and manga have become even more popular. These days, nearly any bookstore in the US is going to have at least one single shelf dedicated to manga. A few years back, my oldest son talked me into watching the Sword Art Online anime with him. I ended up enjoying it much more than I expected, so I decided to give the manga version of the story a try. Again, I became hooked immediately. In fact, I actually liked it much more than the anime.

At that point, I could no longer deny it: I like manga. Despite my deep-rooted love of Japan, I try my very best to avoid being labeled as a weeabo. Sadly, this is another mark in the “Is Sensei a Weeabo?” column… But I’m still resisting!

So, what does all this mean? Well, it’s simple. I’m going to throw manga into the overall “comic book” topic on this site and include them in my reviews. In the coming days, I’ll be introducing my first manga overview. I hope you enjoy it.



Comics: Star Wars – Doctor Aphra


Happy Star Wars day!  That’s right, the release of Rogue One is finally here.  Well, technically the film releases on 12/16. But as usual, theaters nationwide will begin showing the movie this evening. So, in celebration of this event I will be posting two Star Wars related reviews today. First up – Marvel’s new Star Wars comic: Doctor Aphra.  **THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS OF DARTH VADER #25**

Doctor Aphra is a name that might not be familiar to everyone. Casual fans, or fans of the films-only have likely never heard the name before. So who is Doctor Aphra? Aphra is a character from Marvel’s “Darth Vader” comic.  She is a criminal mastermind that partnered with Vader for the majority of his solo series. In Vader’s book, she helped him with his secret quest to track down Luke Skywalker. Along with her black Wookiee bounty hunter and two sadistically programmed droids, she worked in the shadows at Vader’s command, doing his dirty work and laundering credits to help fund his search.  In the end, when the whole plan fell apart, she tried to save herself by revealing Vader’s plans to the Emperor himself. This only resulted in Vader ejecting her into the void of deep space, presumably to die. Of course, as the final pages of the the comic showed, she managed to survive.

Now, Aphra has her own comic book. Along for the ride are her droids and menacing black Wookiee. This first issue follows Aphra as she tries to slip back into her old lifestyle. However, unforeseen complications occur that may result in a few changes in Aphra’s near future.

Overall, I found the comic to be off to a good start. It’s always hard to take a non-core character and make them the focus of a new story. But so far, Marvel has done a great job of not only introducing us to a new face in the Star Wars universe, but also making us interested. I look forward to see where Aphra’s story goes in the coming months.


Artwork: Very good. The art work here is on par with Marvel’s other Star Wars entries so far. Crisp, clear, and enjoyable.

Story: Great job so far crafting an interesting tale about a second-class character. The addition of BT1 and 0-0-0 to the book make for some great dark-humor laughs.

Recommended:  Yes. Fans of the Darth Vader comic will really enjoy this book as it seems to be a continuation of the tale found there. Casual Star Wars fans might even find something to their fancy here.

Comics: Star Wars – Han Solo


Marvel has certainly not been slouching when it comes to their Star Wars books. Currently, we have three ongoing series (Star Wars, Kanan, and Poe Dameron), one retired series (Darth Vader), and a number of minis and one shots. Han Solo is the latest in this crop of five-issue minis. Now the final issue of Han Solo has arrived! I’ve read it, and I’m ready to share my thoughts on this latest entry in the Star Wars canon.

This book takes place between Episode IV and V. In this story, as part of his cover in a top-secret mission for the rebellion, Han Solo participates in a high-stakes race across the galaxy – one that, if he actually won, would afford him enough credits to square his debts with Jabba. As one can expect, losing is not in Solo’s playbook. So despite being only a ruse for a larger mission, Solo takes it upon himself to both complete the task given to him by the rebellion AND do his best to win the race of a lifetime.

All in all, the book is masterfully done. This series does a fantastic job of portraying the internal struggle that Han Solo is going through at this point in the saga. His desire to return to his independent, loner ways vs. his new found friends and a sense of belonging to something greater than himself. The writers for this series also managed to nail the unique personality and humor of his character. (A task that’s often done very poorly on paper). All in all, this is a fantastic entry into the new canon. As 2017 arrives and some new comics are on the horizon, I hope to see Marvel continue this trend in quality Star Wars comics. These five issues were not enough. I was left wanting more.


Artwork: Very well done. Wonder use of color and the character portrayals are realistic, without looking traced or photo-sourced.

Story: A fun action/adventure romp. Classic swashbuckling Han Solo. Just what I was hoping to find in a Han Solo title.

Recommended:  YES. For everyone.  Even casual fans of the series will find an enjoyable comic here.

Comics: Star Wars – Poe Dameron #1


As promised, I’m here with my review of Poe Dameron #1. (Better late than never!). Despite having been out for a total of eight issues now, I’ve only just gotten around to catching up with this series. Generally speaking, I usually like to collect 4-6 issues of a comic before diving into it. This way I can get a good chunk of the story before waiting a whole month for the next chapter. That works great for someone that is only reading a comic, but not so good for someone who is reviewing them.

Regardless, I’ve finally sat down with my copy of Poe Dameron #1 and I’m ready to share my thoughts. As you may have guessed, this comic is focused mainly of the character of Poe Dameron. Fans of The Force Awakens are undoubtedly familiar with this character. Poe is the star pilot of The Resistance, and personal friend of General Leia Organa. This book begins shortly before the events of The Force Awakens. This is the story of Poe on his search for Lor San Tekka (the old man from the beginning of Episode VII). So fans of the new film should feel right at home with events of story presented here.

Aside from Poe, we also see a lot of attention on the other X-Wing pilots in Poe’s “Black Squadron”. As well, receive an introduction to a new character from The First Order. One thing I’ve really enjoyed about these new Marvel comics is the introduction of new and interesting characters. Marvel’s done a great job of creating some really fantastic characters who fit wonderfully into the existing Star Wars mythology. Those found here in the Poe Dameron comic are no exception.

I found myself enjoying this book a lot more than I expected to. To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting such a deep tie-in with Episode VII. The storyline presented in this first issue serves as a great launching point for this book. I can’t wait to see where it goes.


Artwork: The artwork in this comic is similar to that seen in the earlier issues of Marvel’s main Star Wars line. Overall well done.

Story: The story-line here is a prequel to The Force Awakens, and a sequel to Poe’s story in Before the Awakening. We are given a little insight into the event’s leading up to the opening scene of Episode VII.

Recommended:  Yes. I recommend this series to any Star Wars fan. Fans of The Force Awakens especially will find a lot to like in this premier issue. I can’t wait to see where the story goes and check back in the near future.

Comics: Star Wars – Darth Vader #25


I’m lagging a bit behind in my Star Wars comic book reviews. But fear not! I will catch up soon with my thoughts on the Poe Dameron and Han Solo comic. I plan to do so before the release of Rogue One next month, But first, I want to discuss the final issue of Marvel’s Darth Vader.

When Marvel took over the mantle of Star Wars comics from Dark Horse, it launched with both a generic Star Wars title as well as a Darth Vader comic. For awhile, these two comics ran parallel of each other. Then, Darth Vader took a bit of a turn and veered off into it’s own story line. The Darth Vader series has now come to a close with the release of it’s 25th issue.

During the course of this excellent comic, we learned how Darth Vader discovered Luke Skywalker’s identity as well as his early plans to circumvent the Emperor and reunite with his long lost son. This comic introduced us to a number of wonderful new characters; Dr. Aphra, BeeTee, Triple 0, Cylo-IV, etc. All of which I found to be fascinating and worthy additions to the Star Wars universe.  As a result, even though this book has come to an end, I’m very excited for the upcoming Dr. Aphra comic.

Star Wars fans who are curious about the era between the fourth and fifth films will find a treasure trove of material in these twenty five issues. I can’t recommend this series enough. Marvel has proved itself to be a fantastic steward for the Star Wars universe and this comic is a prime example of why.

If you have not yet experienced this part of the Star Wars canon. Now is an excellent time to catch up. Combined with the main Star Wars books, Darth Vader makes a great starting point for anyone interested in getting into the series. I’m sad to see that it has come to an end.


Artwork: The artwork in the course of the Darth Vader comics was top notch from beginning to end. Even across the span of twenty five issues, I found it to consistent and often times some of the best out of all the new Star Wars books. High praise here.

Story: Originally, this book mirrored the events of the main Star Wars series but from an Imperial perspective. During this time, several new characters were introduced. After a while, these characters and their relationship with Vader became the focus of the book. The Darth Vader comic did a wonderful job of bridging the character of Anakin Skywalker with the cold and ruthless Darth Vader that we know from the original trilogy. The story presented in this book was nothing short of fantastic.

Recommended:  Yes. I recommend this series to any Star Wars fan. Followers of both the prequels and the original trilogy will find a lot to enjoy here.

Comics: Star Wars – Obi-Wan and Anakin


A little late with this review, so I apologize. But here are my thoughts on the Marvel Comics: Obi-Wan and Anakin mini-series. This was a five-issue event that ran from January to May of this year. The story focuses on an adventure shared between both Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi and is set during the early days of Anakin’s apprenticeship.

In the story, our heroes find themselves stranded on an alien planet in the midst of a civil war between two semi-primitive factions. Anakin and Obi-Wan must work together to unite the warring groups and secure their escape.

Hidden amidst the main plot, are some very interesting glimpses into the nature of Obi-Wan’s relationship with Anakin in the early days of his training. It also sheds some light on the origins of Anakin’s relationship with Palpatine, a subject that is a huge fascination with many fans. Despite what initially appears to be a fairly generic storyline, Marvel did a fine job weaving in details that hardcore fans will be eager to soak up.


Artwork: This book has a very modern art style. Similar to that of the main Star Wars series. Crisp and clean with good use of color.

Story: Set between Episodes I and II, that’s a surprising amount of information packed into this series. Hints are given into Obi-Wan’s private thoughts on the state of the Jedi Order and well as a surprising reveal regarding Anakin’s intentions in the early days of this training.

Recommended:  Yes. This is a great mini-series and a prime example of the new canon done right. Fans of the prequel trilogy will really enjoy this title, but in truth is appeals to nearly any Star Wars fan.

Comics: Star Wars -C3PO


So unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that there was a new Star Wars movie recently. In this film, we see one of our favorite robotic Star Wars characters, C3PO, sporting a strange looking red arm. The arm is mentioned in the film as a bit of a side note, but no explanation was given regarding its origins… until now.

Marvel has produced a one-shot C3PO comic book that provides a bit of backstory on the mysterious origins of the scarlet appendage. The books is fairly short, and is centered upon a scenario in which C3PO and a number of other droids embark on a bit of an adventure. I don’t want to say much more or I risk giving away a bit of the story. But I will tell you that there’s actually a lot more insight into the inner workings of droids provided here than one might expect. I found the story to be both entertaining and touching.

So if you were on the fence, wondering just how entertaining a comic featuring a handful or robots might be, you can place your fears to rest. This comic is surprisingly well done.


Artwork: The art in this book has a dark and gritty feel to it, which seemed a bit off to me. But, it is well done.

Story: Set shortly before the events of EP VII, this story focuses on the working relationship between droids, and serves as an explanation for C3POs strange red arm.

Recommended:  Yes. For $4.00, this book is worth the price. There’s really nothing groundbreaking here, so I can’t really call it a must-read. But fans should find something enjoyable here.

Comics: Star Wars – Chewbacca (Mini Series)


I know I’m a bit late on this post. But with the flurry of Star Wars posts coming to a head back in December, I thought it would be best to give things in the Star Wars universe a bit of breathing room. Happily, we’ve all had a few months to decompress, so I’m finally ready to share my thoughts on Marvel’s Chewbacca mini-series.

When this comic was announced, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I like Chewbacca just as much as any other Star Wars fan, but it seems awfully difficult to center an entire five-part mini-series around the character. Then when I learned that Chewy’s dialogue would remain un-translated (when he roars, it literally just says “Roooaaaaar!”) – I began to wonder even harder how they would manage to pull this off.  —  It wasn’t pretty.

The story in this book takes place shortly after the events of Episode IV. It features Chewbacca running a solo errand when he gets caught up in an Imperial situation on a remote planet. Teaming up with a young local girl, Chewy puts in some pro-bono work by helping a group of citizens strike at their Imperial oppressors. The problem is, the story itself is only mildly interesting and the characters introduced in the book are forgettable at best.

I can’t say that this series is particularly bad. But, it really seems unimportant in the overall scheme of things. In a nutshell, it’s just not very interesting and the execution feels flawed. This might be the first real dud in the new Marvel Star Wars lineup.

Chewbacca 003-003

Artwork: Good. The art here is well done, but nothing spectacular.

Story: Besides a little bit of fan service in the final issue, there’s little here that I actually found interesting. The Empire is still evil and oppressive, Chewbacca’s actions reflect his good nature, etc. All things we’ve seen before. I would have liked to see Marvel take this opportunity to explore more about the Wookiee homeworld or reflect a bit on Chewbacca’s relationship with Han Solo instead of what seems like shoe-horning him into this brief adventure.

Recommended:  No. I can’t really recommend spending your money on this title unless you’re a hardcore Star Wars collector.