The GeeksverseREVIEWS | Trades & Hardcovers: April 2013 releases

REVIEWS | Trades & Hardcovers: April 2013 releases
Published on Friday, April 26, 2013 by
For the month of April, we review nine trade paperbacks/hardcovers, including Dark Horse’s Mind MGMT, Vol. 1, IDW’s Judge Dredd, Vol. 1, and Image’s The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 2. 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

Mind MGMT, Vol. 1: The Manager

  • mindmgmt1p0Story and art: Matt Kindt
  • Format: 200 pages, full color, hardcover
  • List price: $19.99
  • Sale date: 10 April 2013
  • Publisher’s description: Reporting on a commercial flight where everyone aboard lost their memories, a young journalist stumbles onto a much bigger story, the top-secret Mind Management program. Her ensuing journey involves weaponized psychics, hypnotic advertising, talking dolphins, and seemingly immortal pursuers, as she attempts to find the flight’s missing passenger, the man who was MIND MGMT’s greatest success—and its most devastating failure. But in a world where people can rewrite reality itself, can she trust anything she sees? Collects MIND MGMT #1-#6.
  • Read the 37-page preview here.

Matt Kindt has been putting out critically-acclaimed, modern noir and cloak-and-dagger themed comics and doing top-notch art production and book design work since the beginning of the century—he’s compiled multiple Harvey and Eisner Award nominations since he broke into the international comics scene with 2001’s Pistolwhip and in 2007, he shared the Harvey Special Award for Excellence in Production/Presentation with Brett Warnock for their work on Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls—but the kind of sweeping, mainstream crossover success achieved by some of his younger and less experienced peers in the small and “indie” comics press has always eluded him. Mind MGMT might yet change that. Earlier this year, 20th Century Fox picked up the film rights to Kindt’s comic, and the cinematic adaptation is set to be produced by Hollywood heavyweight Ridley Scott along with Dark Horse Comics executives Mike Richardson and Keith Goldberg. Mind MGMT is set in a version of our world where the social and political milieu of the 20th century has been shaped by a government-run, psychically-empowered, covert organization called Mind Management that is equal parts CIA and advertising agency. The more fantastical elements of the book—listed only in part in the publisher copy as “weaponized psychics, hypnotic advertising, talking dolphins, and seemingly immortal pursuers”—will remind readers of Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, or Joe Casey at their vintage “mad ideas” best, but Kindt also brings to bear the focus on characterization that distinguished his work on graphic novels such as 2 Sisters and Revolver. Mind MGMT is at once an action-packed, sci-fi/espionage thriller and an artful, sometimes philosophical, meditation on the nature of free will and self-determination. Kindt’s highly-stylized, heavily-textured ink-and-watercolor renderings might hold limited appeal for readers used to more conventional comics art, but the book’s visual storytelling is impeccable: sequences are easy-to-follow, even as the narrative frantically shifts back-and-forth in perspective, temporal setting, and geographical location in the book’s third act. Highly recommended.

Aliens: Inhuman Condition

  • alic1p0Writer: John Layman
  • Artist: Sam Kieth
  • Colorists: Sam Kieth, John Kalisz
  • Format: 56 pages, full color, hardcover
  • List price: $10.99
  • Sale date: 24 April 2013
  • Publisher’s descriptionOn a distant, frozen world, “artificial persons” are manufactured in discreet seclusion. With formidable new security synthetics coming online, how better to test their mettle than against a hive of deadly xenomorphs? But as Socialization Specialist Jean DuPaul sees her ever-more-human android charges sent to their destruction, she learns that the most savage species in the universe is man. Collects stories from Dark Horse Presents #12-#17.
  • Read the seven-page preview here.

The science, such as it is, in the sci-fi horror tale Alien: Inhuman Condition is more of the Hollywood kind—although what else should it be?—all hand-waving explanations and convenient circumstances meant to frame the Weyland-Yutani corporate shenanigans, gore/body horror, and the inevitable, climactic humans vs. xenomorphs clash that are staples of the Aliens franchise. One of the major plot points, that of the line separating humans and androids becoming increasingly blurred as the latter develop more advanced AI, is the stuff of contemporary sci-fi boilerplate. Still, writer John Layman (Chew, Detective Comics) outlines protagonist Jean DuPaul’s character and her dilemma so efficiently and effortlessly that readers should become emotionally invested in the story’s events despite the relative brevity of the introduction and subsequent build-up to the climax. Artist Sam Kieth (The Maxx, Arkham Asylum: Madness) might seem like an odd, even counterintuitive, choice to illustrate an Aliens story but his practiced skill in depicting affect and mood through pose, gesture, and facial expressions complements Layman’s choice to emphasize, at least initially, a character study of DuPaul, and Kieth is no slouch when it comes to drawing the xenomorphs, either. The overall result is a surprisingly affecting and rather unique-looking addition to the Aliens comics canon in a reasonably-priced hardcover package. Recommended.

The Creep

  • creep_00Writer: John Arcudi
  • Artist: Jonathan Case
  • Cover artist: Tonci Zonjic
  • Additional art by: Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Ryan Sook
  • Format: 136 pages, full color, hardcover
  • List price: $19.99
  • Sale date: 24 April 2013
  • Publisher’s descriptionA young boy puts a gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger. The police don’t care—not about his death or the death of his best friend two months earlier. The dead boy’s mom seeks help from an old flame that’s employed as a detective. Will the detective’s freakish appearance get in the way of uncovering the terrible secrets of these two teenagers? Collects issues #0-#4.
  • Read the 20-page preview here.

Veteran writer John Arcudi (B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth—Gods and Monsters, Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest and Other Stories) takes the clichés and stereotypes of hardboiled crime fiction and subverts them in The Creep, a somewhat low-stakes whodunit featuring an acromegaly-afflicted gumshoe. Arcudi prods the reader to enter an introspective space through the clever, red herring-aided manipulation of cultural and genre expectations. It’s difficult to explain how he does this without spoiling the mystery that is central to the plot, but be assured that the plot twist and its accompanying quasi-deconstruction of the genre are introduced seamlessly and not at the cost of a consistent internal story logic. Jonathan Case—readers might best remember him for sharing the 2012 Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work for Green River Killer: A True Detective Story with Jeff Jensen—provides the art in a well-rounded book that isn’t particularly astounding in any single regard but is a satisfying read from start to finish.

Ningen’s Nightmares

  • 365nn1p0Story and art: J.P. Kalonji
  • Cover colors: Dan Jackson
  • Format: 120 pages, black & white, trade paperback
  • List price: $12.99
  • Sale date: 24 April 2013
  • Publisher’s description: In ancient Japan, a witch named Hannya seeks to use the warrior-monk Ningen’s enlightened body and spirit to resurrect the demon-samurai Atsumori and unleash an era of chaos! After leaving the safety of his temple to protect defenseless commoners, Ningen soon finds that several colorful bounty hunters are on his trail!
  • Read the nine-page preview here.

The follow-up to 2009’s 365 Samurai and a Few Bowls of Rice, Ningen’s Nightmares sees Swiss writer-artist J.P. Kalonji abandoning the one-panel-per-page approach of his earlier work and utilizing a more conventional visual storytelling technique. The results are somewhat mixed. On the one hand, the more typical, comic book-style layouts should make it more accessible to readers unfamiliar with or resistant (for whatever reason) to the highly-stylized visual delivery that defined 365 Samurai and a Few Bowls of Rice. On the other, this new book doesn’t have the same comprehensive, widescreen, cinematic quality of its predecessor. Ningen’s Nightmares is also built around a more structured, action-adventure plot. All this isn’t to say that Kalonji has turned in a rote chanbara-style comic. The character designs and figure work are still strikingly dynamic and unique, combining manga inspiration with urban street art-inspired flair, and the writing retains some of the philosophical bent of the preceding volume. Readers who might have felt 365 Samurai and a Few Bowls of Rice a bit too outré will likely find Ningen’s Nightmares more their speed, but as someone who enjoyed the former’s bold storytelling design choices, I will admit to feeling just a wee bit let down by the latter’s relative orthodoxy.

IDW Publishing

Judge Dredd, Vol. 1

  • JudgeDredd_v1-pr_001Writer: Duane Swierczynski
  • Artists: Nelson Daniel with Paul Gulacy, Brendan McCarthy, Langdon Foss, Inaki Miranda
  • Lettering: Shawn Lee
  • Cover by: Zach Howard
  • Format: 124 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $19.99
  • Sale date: 10 April 2013
  • Publisher’s descriptionIn the 22nd century, crime runs rampant in Mega-City One, home to over 400 million citizens, robots, criminals, and lunatics. The only line of defense between anarchy and chaos are… the Judges. And Judge Dredd is the toughest of them all. IDW is proud to re-introduce Judge Dredd to America in this new series.
  • Read the ten-page preview here.

IDW Publishing’s licensed Judge Dredd comic is something of an oddity: It’s a standalone spin-off of the long-running Judge Dredd strips in Rebellion Developments’ 2000 AD comics anthology and Judge Dredd: The Megazine, featuring all-original stories and a continuity that is loosely-based on a generalized and simplified formulation of the original. Hardcore Dredd fans might casually dismiss this book as not being “the real thing,” but they would be doing themselves a disservice in doing so. Writer Duane Swierczynski handles the eponymous character and the 22nd century America setting quite deftly—whether this is born of a fan’s genuine familiarity or practical, work-motivated study is ultimately irrelevant—and all the little things long-time readers will have come to expect from Dredd fiction, from the winking block and street names to the occasionally morbid deadpan humor, are in evidence throughout the book. Also impressive is how Swierczynski uses parallel vignettes to fill in the exposition in the main story instead of ladling it on in flashbacks or info-dump dialogue. It’s a technique I wish more writers and editors would adopt. If there’s one thing that I feel is missing in this volume, it is the sense of Dredd’s nature as both Mega-City One’s savior and its most feared denizen: Dredd’s unyielding adherence to the letter of the law and his brutal methods make him plausible as both a law enforcement hero and a fascistic quasi-villain depending on the reader’s perspective, and the character is at his most interesting when the writer toys with that dynamic. There are indications that this duality might come into play in the near future as hinted in a developing subplot, so I suppose readers will just have to wait and see what Swierczynski has in store. Recommended.

Image Comics

Point of Impact

  • pointofimpact1_p0Story by: Jay Faerber
  • Art by: Koray Kuranel
  • Format: 100 pages, black & white, trade paperback
  • List price: $14.99
  • Sale date: 03 April 2013
  • Publisher’s description: A gripping, provocative murder mystery from acclaimed writer Jay Faerber and stunning artist Koray Kuranel begins with one woman’s murder and branches out to follow the investigation by three people with personal connections to her: her husband, an investigative reporter; her lover, an ex-soldier; and her friend, a homicide detective.  Her death will change all of their lives. Collects POINT OF IMPACT #1-4.
  • Read the 28-page preview here.

Jay Faerber and Koray Kuranel’s Point of Impact is a solidly constructed work of modern noir and it really is just what it says on the tin, or rather, in the ad copy. There is something reassuring, comforting even, in reading and anticipating the story beats of this kind of workmanlike, meat-and-potatoes crime novella. Kuranel’s black & white rendering is particularly clear and effective without sacrificing detail, which is all the more impressive when one considers the fact that he did not employ screentones. The visual storytelling is measured and stylistically conservative—one might even contend excessively so—but it fits in perfectly with the tone of the book. A technically solid effort all-around.

Happy!

  • happy-tp-review-1Writer: Grant Morrison
  • Artist: Darick Robertson
  • Format: 96 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $12.99
  • Sale date: 17 April 2013
  • Publisher’s descriptionMeet NICK SAX – a corrupt, intoxicated ex-cop turned hit-man, adrift in a stinking twilight world of casual murder, soulless sex, eczema and betrayal. With a hit gone wrong, a bullet in his side, the cops and the mob on his tail, and a monstrous child killer in a Santa suit on the loose, Nick and his world will be changed forever this Christmas. By a tiny blue horse called Happy… Collects HAPPY! #1-4
  • Read the seven-page preview here [NSFW warning].

Grant Morrison channels his inner Garth Ennis in Happy!, a book chock-full of the kind of over-the-top violence, sex, profanity, and morbid humor that many readers have come to associate with latter. Morrison has even teamed up with frequent Ennis collaborator/co-conspirator Darick Robertson, whom we last saw in this space working on The Boys finale and is perfectly at home illustrating the (mis)adventures of mob hitman Nick Sax. Of course, Morrison being Morrison, Happy! isn’t just a straight-up crime fiction work. Sax has to contend with visions of Happy, a miniature, talking, flying unicorn who ropes Sax into a mission to save abducted children from an organized crime ring intent on using them for snuff films. Happy is either a figment of Sax’ alcohol-soaked mind or an abducted child’s imaginary friend brought to life by magic and psychic distress. Morrison tries to play coy with Happy’s true nature until the end, but the accumulation of coincidences and too-pat explanations that build towards the ultimate reveal undermine any sense of suspense. Entertaining and even downright hilarious in spots, but there are yawning spaces of wheel-spinning filler in between, and the whole thing reads like a one-shot stretched out to miniseries length.

Harvest

  • Harvest_HC_coverWriter: A.J. Lieberman
  • Artist: Colin Lorimer
  • Format: 128 pages, full color, hardcover
  • List price: $19.99
  • Sale date: 17 April 2013
  • Publisher’s descriptionLivers, kidneys and rogue medical teams, oh my! Welcome to Dr. Benjamin Dane’s nightmare. His only way out? Bring down the man who set him up for murder by reclaiming organs already placed in some very powerful people. The only people Dane can count on are an ex-Yakuza assassin and six year-old drug fiend. If Dexter, ER & 100 Bullets had a three-way and that mind blowing tryst somehow resulted in a kid, that kid would read HARVEST. Collects HARVEST #1-5, plus extras and an amazing FOLD-OUT featuring all five covers!
  • Read the seven-page preview here.

The elements are all there for Harvest to be a gripping read—a “ripped-from-the-headlines” premise, a down-on-his-luck-loser of a protagonist custom-made for a redemptive story-arc, snappy dialogue, and excellent art by Colin Lorimer—so it is doubly disappointing that it never really coheres together as a consistently entertaining and engaging whole. The book’s problem is one mainly of pacing. The narrative spends far too much time shuffling between the same locations and characters, rehashing plot points without really advancing the story or developing characters in a meaningful way. Harvest would have benefited from operations of its own, a liposuction to trim the book of unnecessary fat and a transfusion of believable character motivation for the story’s lead, whose abrupt switch from drug-addicted rogue surgeon to operating room vigilante strains credulity. Also worth noting: In a book relatively grounded in medical reality, the bar for the reader’s suspension of disbelief is by necessity set a little higher than for the usual comic book fare, but the sloppy depiction of surgical procedure—apparently, in the world of Harvest, anesthesiologists are optional in major surgeries and organ transplantation procedures can be performed by a single surgeon under suboptimal clinical conditions with little to no complications—detracts from the sense of narrative immersion.

The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 2

  • manhattanproj_vol2_coverWriter: Jonathan Hickman
  • Artists: Nick Pitarra, Jordie Bellaire
  • Format: 152 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $14.99
  • Sale date: 17 April 2013
  • Publisher’s description: The second amazing volume of the SCIENCE, BAD book of the new millennium. The battle for global supremacy is underway and the bad men of the Manhattan Projects will only accept one outcome: World domination. Collecting issues #6-10 the coolest new series of the year into one super science package.
  • Read the seven-page preview here.

Recently announced as a nominee for the Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series, Hickman and Pitarra’s The Manhattan Projects continues its impressive roll as one of the most inventive and funny science-fiction titles on the shelves. Hickman, who is also in the running for the Eisner Award for Best Writer for his work on the book, has crafted an alternate history of the world that should just be familiar and accessible enough to anyone with a basic knowledge of World War II and early Cold War-era scientific personages and developments (and for everyone else, Wikipedia is a very helpful reading supplement), but quickly ratchets up the “mad ideas” quotient by a factor of a thousand. His fictionalized characterizations of some of the 20th century’s greatest theoretical physicists and aeronautical engineers are hilarious, but the send-ups aren’t as random as they look, even though a cannibalistic Oppenheimer, a machine gun-toting Einstein, and a cyborg Wernher Von Braun might seem to indicate otherwise. A certain logic of caricature links the neurotic and even homicidal geniuses of The Manhattan Projects with their historical counterparts, and as outlandish as the story events become, the pointed satire of science freed from moral and ethical controls is never really obscured. Highly recommended.

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