Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ghost in the Shell: Vol 1.5: Human-Error Processor (2003)

Author: Masamune Shirow | Illustrator: Masamune Shirow | Page Count: 176

"I took this job partly because I wanted some cool new high-tech toys…"

This slim volume was released after GitS: Vol 2: Man-Machine Interface (2001), but the "lost" stories that it contains were written prior to that, in 1991, '92, '95 and '96, which explains the 1.5 in the title. I didn't enjoy it as much as what came before, but only because it lacks one of the major players, meaning the original team dynamic was disrupted. Instead, it introduces a new regular character in what feels like a move made simply to make up the numbers.

Togusa and the new team member get most of the action. They bicker and bond like most buddy cop pairings. It's a beneficial pairing for Togusa, he gets to stop being the rookie, but the new addition isn't really all that interesting.

The Fuchikomas get quite a bit to do, which pleased me. However, when illuminated with the cold light of truth, about 50% of the book felt like filler and with only 176 pages in total that's a problem. It deserves credit for the other 50%, though. Some parts of the stories that work well were later plundered for the SAC TV Series, and we all know how good that was.

My biggest gripe is that Shirow goes overboard with the marginal explanations: some pages have more text squeezed onto the bottom or up the side than there is dialogue in the panels. You're free to ignore it, of course, but I'm incapable of doing that; my brain won't let me.

3 bumble bees out of 5

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ghost in the Shell: Vol 1 (1991)

Author: Masamune Shirow | Illustrator: Masamune Shirow | Page Count: 368

"…There was an 'SOS' literally written in blood on the cyberbrain unit…"

The serialised manga that started the Ghost in the Shell phenomenon is both a product of its time (it has those weird noses and relies on comedy/chibi style reactions) and light-years ahead conceptually and philosophically of where most western comic writers were at the time. Shirow uses a similar kind of futuristic world to what he'd created for his previous works as a foundation, but by introducing GitS-specific concepts he effectively crafts something totally unique.

The blurb on the back makes it sound like what you're getting is the same story that was featured in Mamoru Oshii’s anime adaptation (1995). That's not strictly true. You do get that story, but it's only a small part of the entire book and it doesn't appear until late in the day. If all you wanted was the movie in book form, you'll be slightly disappointed. Admittedly, Oshii took the best of what the collection has to offer, but on the plus side you get a lot more content than was in the film, so it's actually better this way.

Note: There's more than one version of the book available, depending on where in the world you live. There's the censored Kodansha edition, the Dark Horse edition, and the Titan Books edition. The version used for review was the UK Dark Horse edition (2004) that had all originally removed pages fully reinstated.

4 ghost-dubs out of 5

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Wolverine: Old Man Logan (2010)

Author: Mark Millar | Illustrator: Steve McNiven | Page Count: 224

"The past only hurts if we let it catch up with us."

Wolverine has survived multiple horrific injuries over the years but he’s not immortal. A bullet might not kill him, but old age likely will because the passing of time is more deadly than lead from a gun.

Time is also a great pacifier. OML begins 50 years after a cataclysmic battle saw the heroes lose their fight against evil. With no one left to oppose the tyranny, the world changed. Wolverine changed. He’s bub’d but he hasn't snikt’d in almost half a century. The combative Wolverine is gone; only Logan remains.

The detritus of the past is a constant reminder that he failed, so he removes himself from the larger arena. Doing so partially eases the numb pain he feels but nothing lasts forever (he knows that better than anyone).

When an old ‘friend’ comes calling with an opportunity that will enable Logan to extend his current situation, he has to take it seriously…

Mark Millar loves movies. If you've read any of his work before you’ll know that already. The book is a road trip that’s influenced by the American Western movie, specifically Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992). Like Unforgiven’s William Munny, Logan retains the same practical attitude he’s always had but his focus has shifted to more personal concerns.

Millar also loves action scenes, so there’s no shortage of those either. Amazingly, up until the final chapter he finds an almost perfect balance between the two things. The absurd nature of the post-hero world helps the more fantastical aspects of the story seem less at odds with the more introspective, quiet moments. The battle within Logan remains the primary concern.

His companion on the journey has a chequered past, so we’re never quite sure of his real agenda. All we know for certain is that both men have very different personalities and that sooner or later the animal inside of Logan will be called upon to decide if his contentedness is more valuable to him than his morality.

The last chapter goes OTT, it’s the kind of thing I normally associate with Millar, but everything prior to that is him restrained and his work is all the better for it.

A great story deserves a great artist. Steve McNiven’s depiction of the old, hardened ex-heroes is fantastic. He’s equally as good at evoking serenity as he is at framing explosive drama.

The book collects together Wolverine issues 66 - 72 and Wolverine: Giant-Size Old Man Logan.

5 skeletons out of 5