Time Bomb #2 (Radical Comics)/Toriko Vol. 1 (VIZ Media)

It’s action time with this pair of recent comics: the straightforward good-vs.-evil World War II time travel story Time Bomb continues, while Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro sends up both battle manga and food manga in the testosterone-fueled Toriko.

Time Bomb #2 (Radical Comics)
56 pgs., color; $4.99
(W: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; A: Paul Gulacy)

Toriko Vol. 1 (VIZ Media)
204 pgs., B&W; $9.99
(W / A: Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro)

The second issue (of 3) of Time Bomb finds our fictional heroes transported back in time to a German prison camp near the end of World War II. Time travel, although available in their fictional universe, has not yet been perfected: they meant to go back only 24 hours to disable a weapon (the Omega Bomb!) which could destroy all of humanity but find themselves overshooting the mark by 67 years. Anyway, aided by their modern weapons, they dispatch the evil Germans running the camp and set the prisoners free (excusing this alteration of history by the fact that the war will soon be over and no one will care anyway, plus they saved as many lives as they took) and head to Berlin to try to find the bomb’s creator.

Time Bomb is written in the tradition of American war comics and movies in which there’s never much doubt about anything including who’s good, who’s bad and who’s going to win. The appeal lies in the affirmation of particular values attributed to our side—competence, humanity and good looks among them—while the other guys are truly amazing in their stupidity and incompetence and, if they aren’t actually ugly, at least aren’t given the same glamour lighting afforded our heroes. It’s a comforting thought (there’d be less trouble in the world if evil and stupid were always so neatly paired) which helps explain the continuing popularity of Rambo and his fictional brethren.

Having said that, Time Bomb offers an entertaining modern take on the formula. The story feels a bit more clichéd in this issue than in the first, but Paul Gulacy’s art saves the day: chins have never been more handsomely cleft, nor have femmes looked more fatale than in this comic. He also has a nice feel for dramatic shadows and the festishistic appeal of uniforms, which you don’t always see expressed so clearly. One warning: there’s quite a bit of untranslated dialogue in German, which doesn’t bother me (I took 3 years in college) but might pose a barrier for some readers. Click here for more information and a fourteen-page preview.

Toriko has lots of fighting in it also, but to quite a different end: the capture and consumption of the most delicious foods in the world. It was first published in Shonen Jump and satirizes both food manga and battle manga as we watch the ridiculously pumped hero Toriko (he puts the guys in Muscular Development to shame) chase down delicacies like Garara Gator and Rainbow Fruit in a world where bacon grows on trees and you can go fishing for lobsters using a cricket the size of an SUV for bait. This comic could not possibly be more over the top and that’s what makes it fun: it’s an enshrinement of stereotypically masculine attributes from big muscles to bad table manners.

Toriko is accompanied on his journeys by a sidekick named Komatsu who is his opposite in every way: small, polite, and something of a fraidy cat. Komatsu is a head chef at a fancy restaurant who is tagging along on the gourmet hunts because he wants to improve his knowledge about the ingredients he cooks with, and while Toriko likes to kid him (“You didn’t look like a man who has written his will”), Komatsu quickly becomes Toriko’s biggest fan and starts to come out of his shell after a few adventures.

Shimabukuro keeps the story moving and his art is vivid, sometimes past the point of being gross (the manga is rated T for early teens and up). But there’s never much harm done except to the creatures Toriko is hunting (this is not a manga I would recommend to members of PETA) or to those which try to interfere with his capture and it’s all in good fun. Shimabukuro has a particular knack for creating creatures which are scary and comical at the same time, and for drawing action scenes which really pop. You can see a preview at the Shonen Jump web site, although I should point out that there’s no color used in the bound version. | Sarah Boslaugh

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