How’s your holiday shopping going? I was feeling a bit prideful the other day because I’d completed my gift-buying for my best friends in the Cleveland area. Then I realized I still had family gifts to buy and long-distance gifts to buy and that one of the gifts I had purchased for one of my best friends might not arrive until the day after I get together with him and those other friends. In short, I am moving into the “losing my mind” shopping season. However, while some speck of sanity reminds, allow me to offer a few suggestions that may make your shopping go a little smoother.
Spider-Man and Iron Man are two of the most popular characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the bond developed between them one of the more heartwarming aspects of their movies. If you have a MCU fan who doesn’t read many comics on your shopping list, they might enjoy Spider-Man/Iron Man: Marvel Team-Up [$24.99] by Gerry Conway, Bill Mantlo, Ross Andru, Jim Mooney, Sal Buscema and other Marvel Comics creators of the 1970s.
Running just over 200 pages, this trade paperback collects all the Spider-Man/Iron Man stories from Marvel Team-Up. That’s nine issues plus some original art reproductions and covers. The villains are among Marvel’s mightiest and the other heroes who appear keep the adventures moving.
We get Gerry Conway’s three-issue thriller of Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Human Torch and the Inhumans getting caught in the middle of a war between Kang the Conqueror and Zarrko the Tomorrow Man. Then we get Bill Mantlo’s four-issue introduction of the Wraith co-starring Doctor Strange. With script by David Michelinie, Herb Trimpe plots and draws the introduction of the volcanic menace Magma. Whiplash appears in two issues, once under his original name and once under his newer name of Blacklash. I wrote the second of those, starring Spider-Man in his black costume, Jim Rhodes as Iron Man, and set in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.
With the exception of my own story, which I confess I’ve read a few times over the years, this was my first time reading these stories since their original publication. I got a kick out of them and I’m thinking folks on your gift list might enjoy them as well.
Call it a hunch. When I first heard about the manga After the Rain 1 by Jun Mayuzuki [Vertical; $17.95], I was concerned. After all, it is the story of a high school student smitten by the 45-year-old manager of a family restaurant. In the world of manga, it’s hardly unusual for titles involving young women to have a creepy side and pander to fan service. Yet something about the cover showing Akira Tachibana, the reserved student, made me recognize that this manga was something else.
Akira was a sports star at her high school until an injury took her out of competition and triggered depression. She meets Masami, the divorced manager and single father, when he shows her a kindness on a rainy day. She takes a part-time job at the restaurant.
Akira is a complex heroine. She doesn’t rush into anything and she examines her feelings. But she likes Masami and wants to pursue a relationship with him. She is of legal age, but he is much older. Mayuzuki never allows the story to get creepy. Instead, there is a sweetness to the unfolding events.
In one chapter of the first volume, Akira bonds with Masami’s young son. In another, she fends off the advances of a blackmailing co-worker by agreeing to go to a movie with him.
On Akira’s first date with Masami, he takes her to the same movie. Later, she becomes upset because she was two program booklets for the movie and isn’t sure which is from her date with the manager. That program is the only one important to her.
Beautiful art, storytelling and writing make After the Rain 1 one of the most compelling of manga series. If someone on your list is a manga fan, especially if they enjoy shojo manga, I think they’ll enjoy this series. I know I’m in for the duration.
Suitable for gift-giving to young readers at any time of the year, the “Ordinary People Change the World” series by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos are amazing explorations of everyday folks who rose to great accomplishments by dint if their dedication and hard work. The latest in this remarkable series is I am Sonia Sotomayor [Penguin Young Readers Group; $14.99], which relates the life story of the Supreme Court Justice.
This hardcover biography in comics form is fun and inspirational. I always get a kick out of seeing the exceptional heroes of these drawn as young children. It makes them so much more relatable for the intended audience of the books. But the writing and art are so terrific that adults will find joy in them as well.
Like all the young books in the series, this one belongs in every single school and public library in the United States. All of the books in the series belong there as well. As noted above, they make great gifts for young readers. For older readers, well, for what it’s worth, this latest book has convinced me to start collecting them all. Just to have around Stately Isabella Manor if I am ever blessed with grandchildren.
One more gift recommendation and, yes, I’m promoting something that I wrote. Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands [DC; $16.99] collects my recent reboot of my creation. He’s younger than any version I have written before. He’s smarter than any version I’ve written before. He has a real family where, in past Isabella incarnations, he has built families around himself. His stories are more contemporary than ever before, a mixture of super-hero action, street drama, and social commentary. I think it’s the best writing I have ever done. I hope you’ll buy a copy for yourself and consider giving copies to friends and family for the holidays.
That’s my gift recommendations for this week. I’ll have some more recommendations next week for living-on-the-edge readers who have not yet finished their holiday shopping. See you then.
© 2018 Tony Isabella