The GeeksverseREVIEWS | Trades and Hardcovers released January to May, 2012

REVIEWS | Trades and Hardcovers released January to May, 2012
Published on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 by
[UPDATED] As 2012 draws to a close, we will begin posting brief, “capsule reviews” of trade paperbacks and hardcovers that, due to scheduling conflicts, we weren’t able to review in a timely fashion earlier in the year. The first of our multi-review articles covers releases from the months of January to May. Unless specifically noted, the books reviewed were digital copies provided free-of-charge by their respective publishers. Also, don’t forget that even though these books have been out for several months, they can be back-ordered from your local comic book shop or purchased from various online retailers.

Fearless, Vol. 1 ($14.99, Image Comics)

  • Story by: Mark Sable & David Roth
  • Art by: P.J. Holden
  • Publication Date: January 2012
  • Format: 128 pages, full color, trade paperback.
  • Description (from ImageComics.com): From the creator of GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES and GROUNDED comes the story of a literal man without fear. The vigilante known as Fear is a bold, even reckless superhero. He’s also a man paralyzed by a crippling anxiety disorder who needs an anti-fear drug to fight his war on crime. Hell, he needs it just to get out of bed every day. So what happens when his drug supply runs out?

Despite the seeming parallels with Marvel’s Daredevil as suggested by the “literal man without fear” tagline, Sable & Roth’s superhero Fear has more in common with Spider-Man, albeit with Peter Parker’s quirks translated into full-blown neuroses. P.J. Holden’s art is good-looking stuff and his storytelling chops are solid. Drug dependency twist aside however, the book never really rises above simply competent, standard superhero fare.

Between Gears ($19.99, Image Comics)

  • Story and art by: Natalie Nourigat
  • Publication Date: February 2012
  • Format: 304 pages, black & white, trade paperback
  • Description (from ImageComics.com): This honest, autobiographical account of a college senior’s life will transport you to the land of Jell-O shots, term papers, job interviews, road trips, and sanguine optimism in the face of uncertainty and change. Trade paperback collects the comic in its entirety, with 30 pages of new material!

An easy-paced autobiographical account of an art major’s final year of college—readers’ engagement will likely be determined by how interesting they find Nourigat’s relationships, occasional drama, natural comedy, (relatively) low-stakes struggles, and routines. The art is charming, incorporating anime and manga influences while still retaining a clear sense of individual style, with a refined sense for visual storytelling. Recommended.

Avalon Chronicles, Vol. 1: Once in a Blue Moon ($19.99, Oni Press)

  • Story by: Christina Weir & Nunzio DeFilippis
  • Art by: Emma Vieceli
  • Publication Date: March 2012
  • Format: 152 pages, black & white, hardcover
  • Description (from OniPress.com): When Aeslin Finn was a little girl, her parents read to her from a magical book called THE AVALON CHRONICLES. But that was a long time ago. Now a teenager, Aeslin is about to discover just how magical she and that book really are. Transported to the world of Avalon, she discovers a kingdom in need of a Dragon Knight – and the last dragon, Blue Moon, is waiting for her!

Weir and DeFilippis’ follow up to the excellent Play Ball features another strong teen female protagonist, this time in a fantasy setting. The writing has a practiced YA novel economy, although to readers familiar with anime, comparisons to the 2002 theatrical release Escaflowne will likely be inevitable. British artist Emma Vieceli’s art is detailed and features competent storytelling, but despite taking on superficial manga-esque features, lacks the dynamism and clean stylization associated with popular Japanese comics art—the end result is a hybrid style that has many of the weaknesses seen in less polished comics art on both sides of the Pacific.

Abe Sapien, Vol. 2: The Devil Does Not Jest and Other Stories ($19.99, Dark Horse Books)

  • Stories by: Mike Mignola, John Arcudi
  • Art by: James Harren, Patric Reynolds, Peter Snejberg
  • Colors by: Dave Stewart
  • Publication Date: April 2012
  • Format: 144 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • Description (from DarkHorse.com): Paranormal crime scenes wreak havoc on Abe Sapien as he investigates a recluse demonologist’s evil house, a haunted lake, and a sunken Soviet U-boat filled with zombies!

This collection of Abe Sapien stories features tales previously seen in Abe Sapien: The Haunted Boy, Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain, and Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest. Despite being the second in a series of Abe Sapien books, the stories require of the reader minimal grounding in the world of Hellboy and the expanded BPRD universe, this is about as accessible an Abe Sapien book a reader new to the character will find apart from the previous volume. Mignola and Arcudi’s stories maintain the blend of mystery, horror, action, and understated comedy that the Hellboy titles are known for, while the art, excellently executed by industry veterans Harren, Reynolds, Snejberg, and Stewart. is appropriately moody. Despite its relative accessibility, the book has the overall feel of a “deep cuts” purchase for the experienced Hellboy reader.

Adventures into the Unknown! Archives Vol. 1 ($49.99, Dark Horse Books)

  • Written by: Edvard Moritz, King Ward, Mac Elkan
  • Art by: Edvard Moritz, King Ward, Fred Guardineer, Al Feldstein, Leonard Starr, Al Ulmer, Paul Reinman
  • Foreword by: Bruce Jones
  • Publication Date: May 2012
  • Format: 216 pages, full color, hardcover
  • Description (from DarkHorse.com): The first ongoing horror comics anthology, Adventures into the Unknown! is finally collected into a series of deluxe hardcovers! The pre-Code delights found in this debut volume include inventive, exciting tales like “The Living Ghost,” “Kill, Puppets, Kill,” “The Affair of Room 1313,” and the ongoing “True Ghosts of History” feature—and contributions from Golden Age greats Fred Guardineer, Al Feldstein, Leonard Starr, Edvard Moritz, and others! Adventures into the Unknown! Archives Volume 1 reprints the first four issues of the popular, long-running horror anthology, which ran from 1948 to 1967.

Another excellent addition to Dark Horse’s growing hardcover library of pre-Code horror, crime science-fiction, and fantasy comics. The horror stories contained in this volume presaged the “Suspenstory” style popularized by EC Comics in the early 1950s, and are quite entertaining reads in their own right. The premium price point and rather obscure subject matter will no doubt limit its appeal, but students of comics history, libraries, and comics and sequential art teaching departments would do well to pick this collection up. Recommended.

Channel Zero: The Complete Collection ($19.99, Dark Horse Books)

  • Story by: Brian Wood
  • Art by: Brian Wood with Becky Cloonan
  • Publication Date: May 2012
  • Format: 296 pages, black & white, trade paperback
  • Description (from DarkHorse.com)A blistering take on media control in a repressive future America! DMZ and The Massive creator Brian Wood launched an all-out assault on the comics medium in 1997 with Channel Zero, an influential, forward-thinking series that combined art, politics, and graphic design in a unique way. Touching on themes of freedom of expression, hacking, cutting-edge media manipulation, and police surveillance, it remains as relevant today as it did back then.

The work that established Brian Wood’s reputation as one of the most incisive contemporary voices in comics. The story of pirate broadcaster Jennie 2.5 and her adventures in a mad world of media distortion, public surveillance, and government-mandated breaches of privacy has actually aged quite well—looking even disturbingly prophetic in some of its prognostications—despite recent, rapid advances in communications technology and the techno-social dynamic. Packed full of “behind-the-scenes” extras and a prequel story illustrated by Becky Cloonan. If you missed this book when it first came out in 1997 or when it was released by AiT/PlanetLar in 2002, don’t make the mistake of passing on it again. A modern comics classic. Very highly recommended.

Empowered, Vol. 7 ($16.99 Dark Horse Books)

  • Story and art by: Adam Warren
  • Publication Date: May 2012
  • Format: 208 pages, black & white, trade paperback
  • Description (from DarkHorse.com): While costumed crime fighter Empowered makes a startling discovery regarding her status as an all-too-frequent “damsel in distress,” Ninjette confronts her own sordid past and frighteningly uncertain future as she battles alone against an entire clan of supernaturally durable ninja. What’s more, can our hard-luck heroines withstand the challenges of supervillainous minivans, dueling “daddy issues,” doomed-but-still-hot boyfriends, undead karaoke-party crashers, and spoiler alerts from hell itself? 

We actually posted exclusive preview images of this volume with our Adam Warren interview, but opted to save reviewing this title until after we had reviewed both the Empowered Deluxe Edition hardcovers to avoid any unnecessary confusion regarding continuity and numbering, since the two hardcovers collect the first six Empowered trades. The seventh entry in Warren’s creator-owned series is still firmly entrenched in its “sexy superhero comedy” roots but the set-up continues to progress from capes-and-spandex satire to a full-fledged superhero universe of its own. The usual Empowered hijinks are in play here—over-the-top action, strategically torn skintight costumes—but there is also a lot of focus on building on the character relationships and continuity established in the past few installments. The superhero action-comedy stylings of Warren won’t work for everyone, but Empowered has one of the best layouts of any regularly published comic out there for my money, and Warren is an absolute iron man putting these volumes out at his schedule. Highly recommended.

The Foot Soldiers, Vol. 1 ($19.99, Image Comics)

  • Story by: Jim Krueger
  • Art by: Michael Avon Oeming & Mike Parobeck
  • Cover by: John K Snyder III
  • Publication Date: May 2012
  • Format: 176 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • Description (from ImageComics.com)JUSTICE was the age of heroes. EARTH X, their twilight battle. But when ALL the heroes are gone, who will fill their shoes? JIM KRUEGER’S cult-favorite heroes return in a very special collection featuring art by MIKE OEMING and pinups and stories from PAROBECK, ROSS, MIGNOLA, SALE, SIMONSON and more.

This trade paperback collects the four-issue superhero mini-series originally published by Dark Horse Comics in 1996. Readers familiar with Krueger’s work on 1999’s Earth X will see a lot of the ideas and concepts executed in that title being tried out here. Of a piece with many of the “back-to-basics,” contemplative, and nostalgia-washed superhero comics that came out in the mid-1990s such as Kingdom Come and Marvels as a reaction to the adolescent excess associated with the Image Comics boom. Somewhat ironic that it has found a new home with the revamped Image Comics. A solid read even as it finds Krueger and Oeming a few years before their peak, but divorced from the mid-1990s context, it comes off as almost cloyingly sentimental for the traditional superhero ideal.

Marksmen, Vol. 1 ($15.99, Image Comics)

  • Story by: David Baxter
  • Art by: Javier Aranda & Garry Leach
  • Cover by: Tomm Coker
  • Publication Date: May 2012
  • Format: 192 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • Description (from ImageComics.com)Sixty years ago the oil ran out and debts were called in. Civil war followed that splintered America into warring fiefdoms. New San Diego is a technocratic utopia that offers the last bastion of peace and prosperity, provided you live within its walls. Drake McCoy is its best protector. One of a select group of Marksmen, descended from the Navy Seals, McCoy defends the city from the numerous threats in the wasteland outside the walls. But when the oil rich Lone Star state sends a powerful army to steal New San Diego’s energy technology, even the Marksmen’s skill may not be enough to fend off the siege.

Javier Aranda and Garry Leach’s solid art isn’t enough to salvage Marksmen, which is mired in ham-fisted polemics, one-dimensional characters, and a preposterous and flimsy future history of the world, all of which would have been easy to overlook if the book had a modicum of self-awareness and a sense of humor. An easy pass.

Netherworld ($19.99, Image Comics)

  • Story by: Bryan Edward Hill & Rob Levin
  • Art by: Tony Shasteen & Dennis Calero
  • Publication Date: May 2012
  • Format: 160 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • Description (from ImageComics.com)Top Cow Productions and Heroes and Villains Entertainment present the next evolution of supernatural noir! It’s the message on the walls. It’s the feeling in your gut. In this city, ”We Are All Lost.” Ray certainly is; he’s a former cop turned private eye and junkie, haunted by his past in a city with no sun and no hope. A beautiful woman and a slick criminal both offer him the same job: find a girl name Madeline and bring her to them. Ray doesn’t want the job, but he can’t just leave this girl trapped in the middle. Thrust into the city’s twisted underbelly, Ray will unveil Netherworld’s darkest secrets and come face-to-face with his past.

An interesting genre mash-up that tries to combine hardboiled neo-noir with supernatural horror. The result is surprisingly entertaining in spurts in a hackneyed, leave-your-brain-at-the-door, B movie sense. A more competent take on the End of Days conceit is an apt description. Tony Shasteen and Dennis Calero’s art is the book’s primarily highlight.

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