The GeeksverseREVIEWS | Trades & Hardcovers (Feb. 1–14, 2013)

REVIEWS | Trades & Hardcovers (Feb. 1–14, 2013)
Published on Thursday, February 14, 2013 by
Our trade and hardcover reviews for the first half of February covers Alice in Wonderland, Rex Mundi Omnibus, Vol. 2, Alabaster: Wolves, Debris, and Tales From Beyond Science. If you have difficulty finding any of these books, don’t forget that they can be back-ordered through your local comic book shop or purchased directly from any number of online retailers. Unless otherwise stated, all books for review were provided by their respective publishers.

Dark Horse Books

Alice in Wonderland

  • aiw_preview_00Written and illustrated by: Rod Espinosa
  • Original story by: Lewis Carroll
  • Format: 128 pages, full color, hardcover
  • List Price: $19.99
  • Sale date: 06 February 2013
  • Publisher’s description: The curious Alice follows a flustered white rabbit to a magical land of talking animals, evil queens, and enough riddles to strain any logically inclined brain. It’s all here: a hookah-smoking caterpillar, a mad hatter, potions to drink, cookies to eat, and a Cheshire cat. Alice discovers that Wonderland may be a fascinating place to visit, but you don’t want to live there…
  • Read the eleven-page preview here.

Eisner and Ignatz Award-nominated Filipino comics creator Rod Espinosa (The Courageous Princess, Neotopia) does a solid job with the writing and the art in his comic book take (originally published by Antarctic Press) on Lewis Carroll’s beloved children’s classic, but one wonders if there is such a thing as too straightforward and perfunctory of an adaptation. The volume doesn’t have a singularly impressive “wow” moment that made me think that the particular strengths and features of the sequential art medium were being used to explore the work’s themes in exciting and novel ways that can only be done in comics—and no, by “exciting,” I don’t mean Zenescope’s bustier-and-lace garter fetish model Alice. All that being said, Espinosa definitely succeeds in translating Carroll’s prose to sequential art form. Parents, teachers, and librarians looking for a version of Alice in Wonderland for younger readers more inclined to read comics than unadorned text could do a whole lot worse than picking up this hardcover.

Rex Mundi Omnibus, Vol. 2

  • rexmundivol2Story by: Arvid Nelson
  • Art by: Juan Ferreyra
  • Format: 600 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • Sale date: 06 February 2013
  • List Price: $24.99
  • Publisher’s description: Dr. Julien Saunière’s quest to catch his friend’s murderer concludes with the discovery of a secret society dedicated to protecting the mystery of the Holy Grail. Now in pursuit of the Grail, Julien has been betrayed by his lover and hunted by the Inquisition, and witnessed slaughters and miracles in a wild mountain valley owned by the power-mad Duke of Lorraine. Collects Rex Mundi Volumes 4–6.
  • Read the five-page preview here.

The highly condensed nature of the capsule review format used in my coverage of the first volume in this trade paperback series meant that Rex Mundi Omnibus, Vol. 1 received undeservedly short shrift in this space—I’ll try to correct that oversight here by providing an overview of the Rex Mundi series as well as my thoughts on the content of this specific volume, the last in the series unless Arvid Nelson has some more alternative history stories to tell in this particular setting. As established in the review for the previous omnibus, Rex Mundi is set in a pre-WWII world where magic is real, the Reformation was snuffed out in its infancy and the Catholic Church subsequently never lost its grip on real political power, the French Revolution failed to overthrow the monarchy, and the American Civil War ended in a stalemate. The tricky thing about alternative history stories is that the writer must make considerations for gaps in the reader’s historical knowledge: The implications of alternative historical events and divergent timelines make the most sense and have the most impact when immersed in context and set against background knowledge of actual history. Nelson provides that context through reasonable amounts of exposition in the narrative proper and in excerpts from newspapers and other supplementary material that also serve as chapter breaks (Nelson employed a similar device in Zero Killer) and also by keeping the world of Rex Mundi close enough to our own that readers can still make assumptions about how the fictional world and setting works. The second half of the Rex Mundi saga sees Nelson tightening up the core murder-mystery and resolving subplots—the writing is much more concise and focused than in the first half, where, perhaps because of the necessity of world-building, the story would occasionally meander seemingly aimlessly—and readers who took the time to get properly invested in the first omnibus will find the series’ ending gratifying. Juan Ferreyra’s art is a great complement to Nelson’s sprawling tale, combining detailed rendering with clarity in storytelling that is an absolute joy to work through. Rex Mundi is one of the most ambitious comics of the past twenty years in terms of scope and detail, and Nelson and Ferreyra incontrovertibly deliver on that ambition. Very highly recommended.

Alabaster: Wolves

  • alabwv1p0Story by: Caitlin R. Kiernan
  • Art by: Steve Lieber
  • Colors by: Rachelle Rosenberg
  • Cover by: Greg Ruth
  • Format: 136 pages, full color, hardcover
  • Sale date: 13 February 2013
  • List Price: $19.99
  • Publisher’s description: Dancy Flammarion may look like a frail teenage girl, but her journey through the swamps and byways of the American South brings her into battle with werewolves, monsters, and grotesque secrets, armed only with a knife and a mission to destroy the deadly creatures that lurk in shadow. Collects the five-issue miniseries.
  • Read the seven-page preview here.

Given the narrative premise and character designs of Alabaster: Wolves, jaded readers might casually dismiss Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Dancy Flammarion as just another entry in a long line of prospective multimedia successors to Buffy the Vampire-Slayer’s throne as pop culture’s favorite occult heroine. That would be a mistake. Alabaster: Wolves‘ Southern Gothic horror stylings are more Poppy Z. Brite than Joss Whedon, laden with a dark sense of humor and atmosphere and set in a version of the American Southeast that hides exotic horrors and scream-inducing terrors beneath a familiar, humid, swampy exterior. Flammarion is an engaging, three-dimensional protagonist, exuding confidence and competence at times while also occasionally succumbing to self-doubt, but the characterization is never inconsistent. Kiernan succeeds where many other writers often falter, balancing the character’s psychological accessibility, vulnerability. and humanity against the expectations of the action-fantasy lead. A deliberately expository chapter filling in the story’s mythology momentarily drags the pace down about three-quarters of the way through the book, but it’s a necessary contrivance given its grounding in Kiernan’s previously published short fiction. Lieber’s art serves the book well, and his work on facial expressions and the more subdued, conversational moments are particularly worth noting. Highly recommended.

Image Comics


  • debris_tpb_prev_00Story by: Kurtis J. Wiebe
  • Illustrated by: Riley Rossmo, Owen Gieni
  • Format: 128 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List Price: $14.99
  • Sale date: 06 February 2013
  • Publisher’s descriptionIn the far future, humanity has doomed planet Earth to rot and decay, covering her surface with garbage. Now, ancient spirits called the Colossals rise from the debris and attack the remaining survivors, forcing the human race to the brink of extinction. After an attack leaves their people without water, Maya, the last Protector, sets out on a journey for pure water, to save the world before the monsters bring it all to an end.
  • Read the 22-page preview here.

Excerpts from our previously posted full-length review:

The narrative is fairly straightforward—it has a prototypical hero’s journey plot and thematic elements that should be familiar to readers who’ve sampled, say, Hironobu Sakaguchi’s Final Fantasy video games or Hayao Miyazaki’s work on Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke—although it does have its fair share of twists…

… Wiebe’s taut, effective dialogue and facility with economical characterization makes it easy to become emotionally invested in Maya and her quest. We get to learn her motivations and what kind of person she is primarily through her actions and interaction with the book’s cast, and momentum-sapping, transparent exposition is kept to a reasonable minimum for the most part.

The book’s use of the orange-and-teal color scheme so overwhelmingly common in contemporary popular entertainment can be quite oppressive at times, but this is a minor complaint. Character and environment designs are interesting…

…The visual storytelling is solid: perspectives and shot distances are appropriately varied, panel-to-panel transitions are fluid, character gestures, facial expressions, and silhouettes scan easily, and the occasional dutch angle mixes things up nicely.

This trade paperback offers readers who missed out on Wiebe and Rossmo’s sci-fi work the chance to read the graphic novel-length exercise in concise and effective storytelling in its entirety in a handy and convenient format. Highly recommended.

Tales from Beyond Science

  • talesbeysci_p0Written by: Mark Millar, Alan McKenzie, John Smith
  • Illustrated by: Rian Hughes
  • Format: 88 pages, full color, hardcover
  • List price: $16.99
  • On sale on: 13 February 2013
  • Publisher’s description: Follow your host Hilary Tremayne on eight surreal journeys into the unknown. Discover the truth behind the mysteries of spontaneous human combustion, the Bermuda Triangle, the lost 13th month, and the real reason men have nipples. Drawn by RIAN HUGHES and written by a Rogue’s Gallery of Britain’s finest comic writers that includes MARK MILLAR (KICK ASS, WANTED), ALAN MCKENZIE (THE HARRISON FORD STORY) and JOHN SMITH (DEVIN WAUGH), this hardcover volume collects the complete series.
  • Read the seven-page preview here.

Tales from Beyond Science, a serial that originally appeared in 2000 AD Comics between 1992 and 1994, is a tribute of sorts to the UK’s Astounding Stories and Secrets of the Unknown reprint anthologies, American science-fiction comics from the 1950s and 1960s, and Rod Serling-era Twilight Zone, with a heavy helping of absurdist, Monty Python-esque humor thrown in for good measure. The sequential art sci-fi comedy in this volume isn’t just a mish-mash of cheeky pop culture nostalgia, however: The standalone stories—penned by a pre-US comics crossover Mark Millar, Devlin Waugh co-creator John Smith, and Marvel UK and 2000 AD editor Alan McKenzie—feature a bizarre, “mad ideas” sensibility and snappy patter that would come off as contemporary even today. Rian Hughes’ ligne-claire inspired line art and the vibrant coloring is a perfect fit for the retro tone of the book, and the fake comic book covers and advertisements that serve as chapter breaks are hilariously executed as well. Not just for 2000 AD Comics fans. Recommended.

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