Vertigo Pop! Tokyo #1-4 (September-December 2002)
by Jonathan Vankin & Seth Fisher

Vertigo Pop! was a short-lived attempt by Vertigo (the "hip" subsidiary of DC) to bring a global perspective to their repertoire, utilizing international big-city locales and even cross-cultural artistic conventions to create a new type of comic. It didn't sell, and no one cares about it, but I loved these books.

Vertigo Pop! Tokyo ought to have been a crashing failure (after all, Tokyo Pop! is the big manga publisher, and how much more could this title sound like a bad Americanized ripoff), but its writing and art set it apart from the typical Vertigo offerings and even from the manga world it draws from. This is unabashedly an American comic in Tokyo, as opposed to an American comic trying to convince you it's a Japanese one.

The wild story (the zaniest of the three Vertigo Pop! titles) follows an American living in Tokyo, in love with and confused by the culture (see also Lost in Translation), getting involved with a high-strung Japanese-schoolgirl type, her Yazuka brother, and a glammed-up poseur rock star for an adventure none of them will ever forget!

It's not so much the plot (which is almost laugh-out-loud funny, in the good way), but the running commentary of the book that makes this one cool. Since it's told from the American's perspective, the cultural divide is immediately acknowledged, so you're allowed to be ignorant of the references (unlike, say, Kill Bill, which pretentiously assumes that all self-respecting American geeks are masters of Japanese pop culture). The art doesn't use the expected trick of emulating (and/or satirizing) manga style, but instead uses the exaggerated action of that form in a very grounded American way, resulting in an approach that is highly cartoony but also savvy and literary.

It's a blast. Makes me want to go to Tokyo, and/or just go back to the comic shop and find something similar.

Review by Brother John