The GeeksverseREVIEWS | Trades and Hardcovers released June to August, 2012

REVIEWS | Trades and Hardcovers released June to August, 2012
Published on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 by
[UPDATED] The second entry in our series of 2012 retrospective multi-review articles covers trades and hardcovers released in June, July, and August. Unless specifically noted, the books reviewed were digital copies provided free-of-charge by their respective publishers. 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.

The Activity, Vol. 1 ($12.99, Image Comics)

  • Story by: Nathan Edmondson
  • Art by: Mitch Gerads
  • Publication Date: June 2012
  • Format: 136 pages, full color, trade paperback.
  • Description (from ImageComics.com)The evolution of global conflict necessitates the evolution of warfare to rise and meet the call. The United States’ latest, most advanced and most secret special operations group is hidden inside the INTELLIGENCE SUPPORT ACTIVITY. They are tasked with fixing botched operations, wielding bleeding-edge tech and planning and executing lethal action in the utmost secrecy.

The Activity‘s combination of hard-hitting espionage action, exceptional art, and solid value-for-the-price makes it hard to beat. There’s some occasionally clunky dialogue and stiff characterization, but on the whole, this is a rock-solid read, a comic that serves up contemporary, fictionalized military adventure and drama as well as anything on TV or film right now. Very highly recommended.

Baltimore, Vol. 2: The Curse Bells ($24.99, Dark Horse Books)

  • Written by: Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden
  • Art by: Ben Stenbeck
  • Colors by: Dave Stewart
  • Covers by: Mike Mignola
  • Publication Date: June 2012
  • Format: 144 pages, full color, hardcover
  • Description (from DarkHorse.com)A horrific ritual will create havoc on a small European town, as Lord Baltimore takes on the twisted blessing of vampiric nuns and an insane warlock!

Baltimore, Vol. 2: The Curse Bells has all the hallmarks of a Mike Mignola action-adventure/horror work: Steeped in Eastern European supernatural folklore, an offbeat protagonist in the peg-legged Lord Baltimore, interesting villain and monster designs, and a subtle but distinct sense of humor. It never really comes together the way his best work does, however, or the way the prior volume did, for that matter.

House of Night: Legacy ($14.99, Dark Horse Books)

  • Written by: P.C. Cast, Kristin Cast, Kent Dalian
  • Penciled by: Joëlle Jones, Karl Kerschl, Joshua Covey, Daniel Krall, Jonathan Case, Eric Canete
  • Colored by: Daniel Krall, Jonathan Case, Eric Canete, Ryan Hill, Dan Jackson
  • Cover by: Steve Morris
  • Publication Date: June 2012
  • Format: 128 pages, full color, hardcover (physical review copy furnished by the publisher free-of-charge)
  • Description (from DarkHorse.com)Until recently, Zoey Redbird was an average high-school student worrying about grades, boys, and breakouts. But priorities have a way of changing when you’re Marked as a vampyre, enroll in the vampyre academy House of Night, and have to figure out a whole new social hierarchy, affinities for elemental magic, and physiological changes that make you crave blood! Follow Zoey, and her group of devoted friends, as they turn to The Fledgling Handbook, a historical vampyre tome, in hopes of better understanding this big, new world of vampyrism.

P.C. and Kristin Cast’s House of Night fantasy novel franchise, about teen vampires (spelled Polidori-style in the books as “vampyres”) is something of a sales phenomenon, although it’s one that I was unaware of before this book found its way to my desk. The premise, so far as I understand it and put in high-concept speak, is Avatar: The Last Airbender-meets-Vampire Academy. It’s effective enough for what it is, a coming-of-age story filtered through New Age elemental mysticism, YA romance, popular “goth” culture and fashion, and the current “sexy teen vampire” trend. The art, produced by a platoon of diverse stylists and industry veterans, is of an elevated quality. Being a book intended and tuned for a wholly different reading demographic however, I just wasn’t able to read it on its own terms.

After the Fire 100-Page Spectacular ($7.99, IDW Publishing)

  • Story by: Tom Waltz
  • Art by: Guiu Vilanova
  • Colors by: Pintu
  • Publication Date: July 2012
  • Format: 100 pages, full color, one-shot
  • Description (from IDWPublishing.com): Detective Shane Collins is a good cop who has been brutally murdered. Given a second chance to seek vengeance against his killers, Shane’s spirit walks the dark line between life and death, honor and betrayal, where nothing is as it seems, and the truth can hurt far worse than lies.

An engaging supernatural horror/murder-mystery tale. Taut, sharp dialogue contributes to the book’s gritty atmosphere but Guiu Vilanova’s art—reminiscent of the work of both Michael Gaydos and Richard Corben, if you can picture the combination—steals the show. An excellent value at the list price. Recommended.

Artifacts ($99.99, Image Comics)

  • Story by: Ron Marz
  • Art by: Michael Broussard, Whilce Portacio, Jeremy Haun, Dale Keown
  • Cover by: Dale Keown
  • Publication Date: July 2012
  • Format: 448 pages, full color, deluxe hardcover
  • Description (from ImageComics.com)Individually, thirteen ancient and mystical Artifacts have guided mankind since the beginning of time. Now together, thirteen Artifacts will threaten to destroy everything when a mysterious antagonist known only as the Survivor orchestrates a grand symphony to draw the Artifact bearers together. Featuring virtually every character in the Top Cow Universe, including Witchblade, The Darkness, Angelus, Magdalena, Cyberforce, Hunter-Killer, and many more, this over-sized, slip-cased edition collects the entire ARTIFACTS series.

I have to give credit to Image Comics for collecting one of their biggest crossover events in recent years in such an impressive package: The over-sized hardcover comes with a slipcase, a 24″ x 36″ poster insert, and a comprehensive amount of bonus features including an extensive “commentary track” produced in collaboration with Comic Book Resources and various pre-production materials. Like many superhero crossover events however, the story is overwhelmingly slathered in minutia and the inconsistent quality of the art does not help make reading this earnest throwback to 1990s-era superhero comics craft any easier. For serious Top Cow Universe fans only.

Batula ($14.99, Image Comics)

  • Written by: Steven T. Seagle
  • Art by: Marco Cinello
  • Publication Date: July 2012
  • Format: 48 pages, full color, hardcover
  • Description (from ImageComics.com): Livingston is a peaceful fruit bat whose life changes when he is bitten by a vampire and transformed into a vampire bat! As Batula – an avenging creature of the night – Livingston develops a taste for adventure and a need to prove that no matter what he looks like on the outside, he’s still the same bat on the inside.

A whimsical original fable about the changes that come with adolescence and growing up that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Marco Cinello’s beautiful illustrations pop right out of the pages.

Freaks of the Heartland ($29.99, Dark Horse Books)

  • Story by: Steve Niles
  • Art by: Greg Ruth
  • Publication Date: July 2012
  • Format: 160 pages, full color, hardcover
  • Description (from DarkHorse.com)Trevor’s monstrous little brother lives in the barn behind the house. The boy’s only six years old, but he towers over his older brother, and possesses incredible strength. For years, Trevor has looked after his baby brother, keeping him from the light, but now that’s all about to change. His family’s secret is about to be revealed, uncovering the horrible truth of the small Midwestern town the boys have grown up in.

Freaks of the Heartland sees modern horror comics master Steve Niles channeling his inner Stephen King in an absorbing tale of a boy and his quest to save the “monsters” of his small Midwestern town from the fatal perils posed by the townspeople’s ignorance and religious paranoia. Greg Ruth’s outstanding art rounds out an excellent volume. Recommended.

The Monolith ($17.99, Image Comics)

  • Story by: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
  • Art by: Phil Windslade
  • Publication Date: July 2012
  • Format: 96 pages, full color, hardcover
  • Description (from ImageComics.com)We are introduced to Alice Cohen, a down and out ex-junkie who inherits a house in Brooklyn from her deceased grandmother. Alice discovers her diary and begins to read the tale of a lost love and revenge that begins in the factories of New York during the depression and shows the creation of a monster bent on revenge for the slaying of a good honest man.

This decades-spanning story about a golem and the family he has sworn to protect features great character work by Palmiotti and Gray—protagonist Alice Cohen and her primary supporting cast are fully realized entities that the reader can’t help but feel invested in, not just devices meant to usher along a plot. The Monolith was originally published in 2004 by DC Comics as a “DCU” superhero title but the writing compares quite favorably with some of the more thoughtful horror/fantasy-themed Vertigo comics of the period. Phil Winslade’s art is solid stuff as well, and the way he sets apart the people and places of modern-day New York from that of the 1930s in the book’s many flashback scenes while still making it feel like the same city is particularly impressive. Highly recommended.

Prophet, Vol. 1: Remission ($9.99, Image Comics)

  • Story by: Brandon Graham with Emma Rios
  • Art by: Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milonogiannis, Brandon Graham, Emma Rios
  • Cover by: Simon Roy
  • Publication Date: August 2012
  • Format: 192 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • Description (from ImageComics.com)On distant future Earth, changed by time and alien influence, John Prophet awakes from cryosleep. His mission: to climb the the towers of Thauili Van and restart the Earth empire. News of the Empire’s return brings old foes and allies out of the recesses of the vast cosmos.

Proving that any character is salvageable given enough talent, imagination, and creative license, Brandon Graham and his squad of artists and co-writers have rescued Prophet from his lot as just one of the many forgettable, hypertrophied, be-pouched, and shoulder-padded cookie-cutter creations Rob Liefeld pumped out with clockwork regularity back in the 1990s. With a story set thousands of years in the character’s future, this could just as well be an all new property. Graham’s Prophet eschews pallid superheroics for out-and-out bizarre science-fiction and the art quite appropriately has a clear line, Métal Hurlant/Heavy Metal sensibility. Wildly inventive with a sly sense of humor, a clear candidate for best science-fiction comic collection of the year. The wallet-friendly price certainly doesn’t hurt, either. Very highly recommended.

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