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The worst beach-going experience of my life happened in July of 1985 on a beautiful, humiliating afternoon.

I was five, the family was vacationing on Cape Cod, and I was experiencing the ocean for the first time in my life. As a small child terrified of almost everything, waves were a new unholy terror in my life; but like so many for whom there was nothing of particular interest on shore, I felt an inexplicable call of the ocean. I kept wandering down to the edge of the waves, then scurrying back up the beach, over and over.

Some other bigger, braver kid advised me to wade in a little ways, and just let the motion of the waves carry me without resisting them. I worked up the courage to do so just as a particularly large (to a five-year-old) wave crashed over me, submerged me, spun me around and scraped me across the rocks before jettisoning me out onto the wet sand. I was bruised and bloody but I had finally conquered the sea, and it was only as I was triumphantly rising to my feet that I realized the vigorous motion of the wave had pulled down my bathing suit.

I had a similar “just go with it” feeling while reading one of this week’s new releases, a high-energy story about the world of publishing that is so crammed with detail and dialogue I felt like I’d been swept up and dashed, pantless, against rocks by a particularly turbulent wave.

Thanks as always to Phoenix for helping to sort through this week’s new releases! See you at the beach.

MIRKA ANDOLFO'S SWEET PAPRIKA VOLUME #1

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I am exhausted after reading this book, absolutely spent, and in need of a shower and a nap. An erotic sensory assault, this decidedly adults-only paperback is set in a world much like our own but populated exclusively with angels and demons; the story concerns the dramatic will-they-won’t-theys at a publishing company specializing in romance novels, led by a demon who is an expert in mass-market libido but a failure in her own love life. An angelic delivery boy tempts her, but internalized inhibitions make it difficult for our horned, horny heroine to give in to temptation. Every page is loaded with exclamation points galore, intense oversized facial expressions, tiny asides, and scrawled background detail — generally speaking, an overwhelming experience, but perhaps overwhelm is an experience you enjoy, especially when clothes come off. Personally I found it all a bit MUCH, especially since the plot plods; at 164 pages, there’s really only a handful of major story beats. Sexy assignations fill the space between, and fans of heterosexual couplings (with a bias towards the female form) will have plenty to keep their eyes busy, among other body parts.

Rating: 😇😇😇😇 (4/5)

Writer and artist: Mirka Andolfo. Color: Simon Tessuto. Letterer: Fabio Amelia. Editor: Christian Posocco. Associate editor: Davide G.G. Caci. Logo and design: Fabrizio Verrocchi. Localization: Steve Orlando.

THE PRINCESS WHO SAVED HER FRIENDS

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A sweet little sequel to The Princess Who Saved Herself, this hardcover followup finds our young heroine learning a lesson about friendship and forgiving mistakes against the backdrop of yet another battle of the bands. The first book in this now-series was based on a song by filky sweetheart Jonathan Coulton, and he’s back to write this sequel — though there doesn’t appear to be a song to go along with it this time. Still, the book’s tale of a guitar-playing dragon is written in a simple rhyme scheme, and an innovative adult would probably not have much difficulty conjuring up a tune when reading out loud to youngsters. (Though the book is recommended for ages 9-12, I suspect that younger ages may be keener to hear it before bed.) The cutesy, colorful art evokes the “seeing inside a child’s fantasy” aspect of Calvin and Hobbes, as would the story if all the edges hadn’t been sanded down to a gentle curve. The entire book has a gentle, wide-eyed innocence that is pleasantly mind-mannered all the way through. It’s entirely inoffensive, which is another way of saying it’s not entirely memorable.

Rating: 🐉🐉🐉 (3/5)

Writers: Greg Pak, Jonathan Coulton. Art: Takeshi Miyazawa. Colors: Jessica Kholinne, Triona Farrell. Letterer: Simon Bowland.

THE LION & THE EAGLE ISSUE #1

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I was already bristling at this World War II story before page one, having read promo copy that described the Japanese as “savage” and “fanatical,” and the British as “apparently civilized.” Not off to a good start! But perhaps, I thought, the bigotry of the time in which the story is set will be contextualized, with misconceptions juxtaposed against reality. Nope! Not only is there no context for the racism, there’s barely any context for anything else. Locations, characters, time periods, conflicts — large swaths of the story are simply never identified, and unless you come to it as an enthusiast of World War II, trying to figure out what's going on is like trying to board a train that doesn’t slow down at the station. If this was an entirely fictional story about, I don't know, wizards in space, the lack of information would simply be frustrating and confusing; but this book, slurs and all, is presented as a historical account. It’s “a chance to keep alive the memories of the men who faced Imperial Japan,” in the words of writer Garth Ennis, who said in an interview, “the war in the Far East was famously lacking in humanity, with none of the occasional civility that leavened the slaughter of the Anglo-American-German conflict.” I’m honestly stunned that this comic was printed by AfterShock, a major publisher.

Rating: (0/5)

Writer: Garth Ennis. Art: PJ Holden. Color: Matt Milla. Letterer: Rob Steen. Covers: Tim Bradstreet, Keith Burns, Mike Rooth. Logo design: Jared K. Fletcher. Editor: Mike Marts.