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The Comics Alternative

The Comics Alternative is weekly podcast focusing on the world of alternative, independent, and primarily non-superhero comics. (There's nothing wrong with superhero comics. We just want to do something different.) New podcast episodes become available every Wednesday and include reviews of graphic novels and current ongoing series, discussions of upcoming comics, examinations of collected editions, in-depth analyses of a variety of comics texts, and spotlights on various creators and publishers. The Comics Alternative also produces "special feature" programs, such as shows specifically dedicated to creator interviews, webcomics, on-location events, and special non-weekly themes and topics.


Oct 30, 2015

Shea and Derek return for another month's serving of warm, creamy manga. This one includes a heaping helping of other worldly phantoms and pedagogical cephalopods. In keeping with the spirit (literally) of the Halloween season, the guys begin with Nukuharu's Anomal (Gen Manga), a collection of seven short stores originally serialized in the Gen manga anthology. They enjoy the narratives well enough, but they're not entirely sure they understand the premises that Nukuharu establishes. At times there are noticeable gaps in exposition, as if the reader is coming into the middle of a story world with little context. Nonetheless, there are some stories that really stand out for the guys, such as "Kaeshi" and "Kaguya." While Anomal might not have been the strongest collection Derek and Shea have read, they conclude that it is worth checking out. Next, the Two Guys discuss the first six books in Yusei Matsui's Assassination Classroom series (the latest volume having just been released from VIZ Media). Whereas several of Nukuharu's stories were thin on premise, one cannot say the same of Matsui's efforts. Assassination Classroom centers on a mysterious other worldly being resembling an octopus, and who threatens to annihilate the earth, after having demonstrated his powers by destroying seventy percent of the moon. For some unknown reason, he asks to be the teacher of the underachieving students at Kunugigaoka Academy, a junior high prep school in Tokyo. All the while, and with the help of the Japanese Ministry of Defense, the students are trained and encouraged to assassinate their alien teacher, an all but impossible task given his varied and unlikely powers. The round-faced and multi-tentacled word-be destroyer adopts the name Koro Sensei -- a combination of "koro senai" (meaning "can't be killed") and "sensei" (teacher) -- and throughout the series he instructs his students on self-betterment, self-respect, and a sense of life purpose. As both Shea and Derek highlight, the series' strong suit is its ensemble cast, including conflicted classmates, unprincipled principals,  and teachers with dubious backgrounds, ranging from government agents to sexy professional assassins. Although Shea is a little uneasy with the series' subtle emphasis on militarization, both agree that Assassination Classroom excels at wringing compelling stories out of outrageous premises. This is a title that the guys will continue to follow.