The GeeksverseREVIEWS | Trades & Hardcovers: May 2013 releases

REVIEWS | Trades & Hardcovers: May 2013 releases
Published on Thursday, May 30, 2013 by
We review several of the latest trade paperbacks and hardcovers from Archaia, BOOM! Studios, Dark Horse, IDW, and Image Comics, including Mumbai Confidential, 2 Guns, Lone Wolf and Cub, Omnibus, Vol. 1, Godzilla: The Half-Century War, and Peter Panzerfaust, 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 reviewed books were provided free-of-charge by their respective publishers.

Archaia Entertainment

Mumbai Confidential, Book 1: Good Cop, Bad Cop

  • MumbaiConfidentialPreview_001Story: Saurav Mohapatra
  • Art: Vivek Laxman Shinde, with Vinay Brahmania, Shounak Jog, Sid Kotian, Devaki Neogi, Saumin Patel
  • Format: 152 pages, full color, hardcover
  • List price: $24.95
  • Sale date: 08 May 2013 (comic book shops); 21 May 2013 (bookstores)
  • Publisher’s description: Five years ago, Arjun Kadam was a rising star in the ranks of the Mumbai Encounter Squad—an elite unit tasked by the powers that be to carry out extrajudicial executions of notorious gangsters. However, the death of his pregnant wife at childbirth derailed his life and set him off on a spiral of depression and drug addiction. When Kadam is the victim of a hit-and-run, he falls into a coma for a month. Upon waking up, he finds a new sense of purpose and pursues the investigation into the identity of the driver after the cops close the case due to a lack of leads. His investigation takes him on a journey through the deep, dark heart of Mumbai, where the line between the police and the criminals has been blurred by his ex-colleagues on the Encounter Squad. Obsessed with his mission, Kadam sets off a desperate game of intrigue and deception that pits him against the very machine of violence and corruption he once helped create. This hardcover collection features a Foreword by Ron Marz (Witchblade, Green Lantern) and includes a set of illustrated short stories.
  • Click here to read the seven-page preview.

Inspired by the events surrounding the notorious Mumbai Encounter Squad, Saurav Mohapatra and Vivek Shinde’s Mumbai Confidential reads very much like a contemporary, hard-boiled modern noir. This is primarily a good thing, but carries with it certain drawbacks as well. On the one hand, the characters and story premise should be quite accessible to readers despite the relatively exotic setting, and Mumbai Confidential, when you get right down to it, is a competently executed work of crime fiction that should, at the very least, serve as a sufficiently entertaining distraction for the crime comics fan. On the other hand, Mohapatra’s stylistic adherence to American hardboiled fiction tropes (one that borders on unintentional caricature at times) occasionally gives the feeling of reading one of any number of hardboiled crime graphic novels set in more traditional Western locations. Shinde’s art doesn’t help in this regard, as the claustrophobic and overwhelmingly washed-out depiction of Mumbai makes it look like any other claustrophobic and washed-out urban setting popular in the genre—the book could have been set in Chicago or New York or London—and the artist’s penchant for similarly-staged close-up panels means that background details that should give a sense of location and situation rarely come into play. That being said, the feeling of déjà vu is mitigated to a significant extent by little flourishes that emphasize the setting, such as when characters code-switch between English and the local vernacular (I’m assuming it’s Bambaiyya) and when Shinde incorporates color schemes that deviate from the typically gloomy noir palette or when he pulls back and draws out the sightlines in the book’s outdoor scenes and the better-constructed establishing shots. The hardcover also features a collection of short stories that helps fill out the backgrounds of the characters and creates a better sense of cultural and geographical context than one would get from the main narrative alone.

BOOM! Studios

2 Guns: Second Shot

  • 2Guns_secondshot_CVRWriter: Steven Grant
  • Artist: Mateus Santolouco
  • Cover: Rafael Albuquerque
  • Format: 144 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $19.99
  • Sale date: 29 May 2013
  • Publisher’s description: Trench is a deep-cover DEA agent. Steadman is an undercover Naval Intelligence officer. Both think the other is a simple gun-for- hire, the perfect accomplice to help steal a bank vault full of mob money for the good guys. And neither realizes that their caper is a gigantic double-cross from the mob, who’s just tricked both men into stealing $50 million from the CIA! Now Trench and Steadman race headlong across the Southwest, guns blazing, desperately outrunning Feds and mobsters alike while scrambling madly to find some way of clearing both their names before they’re carved on tombstones! Written by comics legend Steven Grant (Marvel’s PUNISHER: CIRCLE OF BLOOD, AVENGERS, INCREDIBLE HULK) and drawn by rising star Mateus Santolouco (DC’s DIAL H, AMERICAN VAMPIRE), 2 GUNS is a lightning-paced, plot-rich crime thriller! Collecting the classic series for the first time in a full-size edition, featuring an all new cover by Rafael Albuquerque (AMERICAN VAMPIRE) and exclusive bonus content from writer Steven Grant!
  • Click here to read the 25-page preview.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The book reviewed for this article was the original 2007 trade paperback collecting the five-issue miniseries, which has a different cover from the image accompanying this article and does not contain the exclusive bonus content found in 2 Guns: Second Shot. Apart from these differences, both editions are practically identical in terms of story and art content.

Steven Grant and Mateus Santolouco’s 2 Guns is a buddy cop action-comedy in the mold of 1980s cinema box-office hits like Lethal Weapon and Tango & Cash, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to anyone who picked up the book when it was launched as a five-issue miniseries in 2007 that it has been adapted into a major studio feature film starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg slated for a midsummer release. 2 Guns‘ story doesn’t offer any real huge surprises, although there is a heist-movie-meets-buddy-cop-film novelty to the premise of the DEA and Naval Intelligence engaged in a covert scramble after the CIA’s dirty money and a somewhat surprising degree of character development for the protagonists beyond what one would normally expect in an action-comedy. Make no mistake however, 2 Guns isn’t just a “paper movie” or an elaborate storyboard masquerading as a comic book. Grant has constructed a plot and script that successfully translate elements of popular action-comedy cinema to the comic book medium and Santolouco leverages the strengths of sequential art for the benefit of storytelling clarity. To be perfectly honest, there isn’t any one thing about 2 Guns‘ writing or visuals that stands out as particularly spectacular, but the way the plot, the dialogue, and the art come together in a workmanlike fashion into a thoroughly entertaining, expertly-paced whole is impressive, making it an unqualified success as an exercise in comics writing craft and visual storytelling technique. 

Dark Horse Books

Dragon Resurrection: The First Adventure of Jesse and Jack Chang

  • dragres1p0Story: Lin Zhang, Lyan Zhang
  • Script: Mark Byers
  • Illustrator: Erfan Fajar
  • Colors: Sakti Yuwono, Beny Maulana, Yenny Laud
  • Cover: Vosa Wang
  • Format: 128 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $17.99
  • Sale date: 15 May 2013
  • Publisher’s description: Discovering the remains of an actual dragon frozen in the mountains of Tibet, Chinese adventurer Jesse Chang sends a DNA sample to her geneticist twin brother Jack, who sets to work unlocking its potential to improve the human genome. But when a rogue American general learns of the discovery and kidnaps Jack, Jesse is forced to use the untested formula on herself, unleashing the ancient powers of the dragon.
  • Click here to read the seven-page preview.

Dragon Resurrection: The First Adventure of Jesse and Jack Chang is built on the premise that dragons actually existed and were used as flying, fire-breathing steeds of war in ancient China, later hunted to extinction and erased from the historical record due to the threat they and their riders posed to a sitting emperor. Fast-forward to the present-day and a family of adventurer-scholars has discovered the remains of one dragon, and thus begins a globe-spanning adventure to keep dragon DNA from falling into the wrong hands and being used to create a mercenary army of dragon-human hybrids. There’s a lot of storytelling potential to be drawn from the Zhangs’ creative conceit of the creatures of myth turning out to be real and the sci-fi twist of the threat of genetically-engineered dragon super-soldiers is genuinely intriguing. Unfortunately, Mark Byers’ script undermines that potential with one-dimensional characters, clunky exposition, uneven story pacing, and wan, self-serious dialogue that fails to generate a sense of wonder and excitement appropriate to the fantasy/sci-fi mash-up context. The muted, workaday reactions of major characters to the discovery of dragons and the appearance of all manner of fantastical creatures come off as somewhat puzzling and unintentionally hilarious. Erfan Fajar’s rendering and storytelling are adequate and his character designs are interesting, although his human figures look rather stiff-jointed and awkward when depicted in motion.

Exile to Babylon

  • exbab_coverWriter: David Lapham
  • Artists: Patric Reynolds, Matthew Southworth
  • Cover: Patric Reynolds
  • Based on a concept/story by: Dom Mazuran
  • Format: 96 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price:$14.99
  • Sale date: 22 May 2013
  • Publisher’s description: In 2040, a private military operative of re-educated gang members—the Blackshield Angels—are the only hope of liberating a vital fuel supply from a criminal overlord. Blackshield’s best agent struggles through betrayal, love, and a seemingly unending war zone—Zone 12—to complete his mission through a dangerous world where tattooed warlords reign supreme and giant satellites watch men from above like gods.
  • Click here to read the nine-page preview.

A comics project slated for adaptation into a feature film, Exile to Babylon appropriates many of the familiar elements of dystopian near-future science-fiction in cinema and popular literature—the fossil fuel crises, the roving Mad Max-style gangs, greedy and amoral mega-corporations holding sway over the fates of nations, increasingly intelligent androids blurring the line dividing humans and artificial life—in a story that touches on the controversial, contemporary issues of the privatization of the military and the gang presence in the US armed forces. There are three main plot threads running through the course of the book: There’s the plotline of a corrupt private military corporation trying to make a play to replace the United States’ overstretched army, there’s the story of gang-members-turned-indentured-military-contractors trying to earn their freedom by going on what amounts to a suicide mission for said corporation, and then there’s a love story featuring what could be termed as the book’s main lead. It’s almost a bit too much to address effectively within a span of 96 story pages; the multiplicity of central narrative threads and the practical need for exposition leaves limited room for meaningful and naturalistic character development for many members of the cast, but the net result is still a largely satisfying read. Patric Reynolds does a great job with an art style somewhat reminiscent of the Gotham Central work of Michael Lark, although the similarity of character designs when it comes to the story’s gang members—they all have facial tattoos, shaved heads, and have similar body silhouettes—makes it a little difficult to tell them apart in busier scenes.

Dark Horse Manga

Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus, Vol. 1 [EDITOR’S PICK!]

  • lone_wolf_and_cub_omnibus01_coverWriter: Kazuo Koike
  • Artist: Goseki Kojima
  • Cover: Frank Miller with Lynn Varley
  • Format: 712 pages, black & white, trade paperback
  • List price:$19.99
  • Sale date: 22 May 2013
  • Publisher’s descriptionA samurai epic of staggering proportions, the acclaimed Lone Wolf and Cub begins its second life at Dark Horse Manga with new, larger editions of over 700 pages, value priced. The brilliant storytelling of series creator Kazuo Koike and the groundbreaking cinematic visuals of Goseki Kojima create a graphic-fiction masterpiece of beauty, fury, and thematic power. Collects Lone Wolf and Cub volumes 1-2, and stories from volume 3.
  • Click here to read the 18-page preview.

Here’s a passage from a brief Lone Wolf and Cub retrospective I wrote two years ago:

So what makes Lone Wolf and Cub so special, anyway? I can’t really speak for anyone else, but for me, more than the riveting thrills afforded by the balletic depictions of violence or the endearing samurai period melodrama, it was a revelation in both art and writing and how they could work together to produce a wholly unified comics-reading experience. Kojima’s ukiyo-e inspired art style mirrored the stark quality of Koike’s plots and reflected the Zen philosophy that infused much of his dialogue. The book’s not perfect, but even the relatively weaker stories in the series still manage to be entertaining.

For readers interested in enjoying and learning from the landmark work by Koike and Kojima (and really, what comics fan wouldn’t?), Dark Horse’s newest series of 700+ page collections represents a much more practical and economical alternative to the original Lone Wolf and Cub trade paperbacks. The Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus series is also an excellent option for long-time fans looking to replace the aging volumes in their collections.

IDW Publishing

Godzilla: The Half-Century War [EDITOR’S PICK!]

  • Godz-HCW-pr-001Story, interior art, and cover: James Stokoe
  • Color assist: Heather Breckel
  • Format: 124 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $19.99
  • Sale date: 22 May 2013
  • Publisher’s descriptionIntroducing a new and exciting look at Godzilla’s reign of destruction, courtesy of Orc Stain creator James Stokoe! The year is 1954 and Lieutenant Ota Murakami is on hand when Godzilla makes first landfall in Japan. Along with his pal Kentaro, Ota makes a desperate gamble to save lives… and in the process begins an obsession with the King of the Monsters that lasts fifty years!
  • Click here to read the six-page preview.

Inflexible, nostalgia-struck Godzilla purists might have a problem with James Stokoe’s reimagining of the radiation-spewing reptilian kaiju‘s history and mythos in Godzilla: The Half-Century War, but everybody else should have a grand old time reading this book. The story takes place across Asia over a stretch of five decades told from the perspective of Anti-Megalosaurus Force officer Ota Murakami, whose fixation with hunting down the beast grows with every year, with Godzilla taking on the role of the white whale to Murakami’s Captain Ahab. One can almost hear Stokoe making Godzilla noises and explosion sound effects at his drawing table while reading the book, as the perpetually-irritable sea monster thrashes about visiting woe upon humans and rival kaiju alike in meticulously illustrated detail. There’s more to The Half-Century War than just the comic book equivalent of Stokoe playing gleefully with all the best toys in the Toho playground, however. There’s a subtle attempt at commentary on the role of the industrial sector in the wars of the second-half of the 20th century, but what will really stand out for most readers is the Orc Stain creator’s fondness for the property. Godzilla: The Half-Century War is at once an entertaining and wonderfully-illustrated story of one man’s obsession with conquering monsters and a fan’s exuberant tribute to a rubber-suited pop culture staple.

Torpedo, Vol. 3 [EDITOR’S PICK!]

  • Torpedo-vol3-pr-001Story: Enrique Sanchez Abuli
  • Art: Jordi Bernet
  • Lettering: Amauri Osorio
  • Translation: Carlos Guzman
  • Format: 144 pages, black & white, trade paperback
  • List price: $17.99
  • Sale date: 22 May 2013
  • Publisher’s descriptionAbuli and Bernet’s masterpiece, Torpedo, is the story of Luca Torelli’s rise from the gutters to become the top killer-for-hire in 1930s New York City. The Torpedo, along with his constant companion, Rascal, wreaks swift and terrible underworld justice on all those unfortunate enough to cross their paths. Abuli’s stories are full of cruel and morbidly dark humor, and Bernet’s art style is perfect for showcasing New York as both stylish and grim. Together they work seamlessly to create a classic and timeless series.
  • Click here to read the nine-page preview.

Readers should welcome IDW Publishing’s decision to reissue its six-volume, translated Torpedo collection as a series of more affordable trade paperbacks, as it makes it easier than ever for English-language comics fans to get hold of the black & white crime comics classic originally published in Spain in 1981. The third volume in the series finds artist Jordi Bernet—a living comics legend who hasn’t seen a lot of exposure to American comics audiences but whose unmistakable influence can be seen in some of today’s top comics artists such as Goran Parlov and Eduardo Risso—in peak form. Students of sequential art at all levels will surely learn something from observing Bernet’s stylized, expressive faces and figures, his mastery of silhouette and framing, and his impeccable sense of motion, mass, and timing. The book, and the Torpedo series as a whole, is a master class in figure work and visual storytelling. Potentially problematic are the stories themselves: the eponymous Torpedo is less of a mobster anti-hero than a villain through-and-through, albeit one that subscribes to a twisted code of professionalism as a hired gun. He cheats, lies, steals, rapes, and kills as suits his purposes, but readers who might take offense at the violent and sexual nature of the subject material should keep in mind the creative and historical context of the book—Torpedo was a comics serial intended for adult readers about an amoral gangster operating in 1936 New York, after all, with a gritty and uncompromising sensibility and a dark sense of humor influenced in equal parts by sensationalistic pulp fiction and the mobster film revival and exploitation films of the 1970s.

Image Comics

Bedlam, Vol. 1

  • bedlam-vol1-cov-webWriter: Nick Spencer
  • Artist: Riley Rossmo
  • Cover: Frazier Irving
  • Format: 144 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $9.99
  • Sale date: 01 May 2013
  • Publisher’s description: One of the hottest new series of the year gets its first, new reader friendly-priced collection! Fillmore Press was once Madder Red, a homicidal maniac and criminal overlord who ruled the city of Bedlam. Now he’s been cured of his mania, and says he wants to help protect the place he once terrorized – but can he be trusted? Collects BEDLAM 1-6.
  • Click here to read the ten-page preview.

Spencer and Rossmo’s Bedlam starts out with a demonstration of homicidal violence and doesn’t let up over the course of the volume’s 144 pages. Bedlam‘s Fillmore “Madder Rose” Press is a pastiche of DC’s Joker, a criminally insane mass murderer operating with the bizarre internal logic of an unhinged genius, but in the book’s twist, is later captured, lobotomized, and rehabilitated by a seemingly covert mental institution. Returned to society, Press feels a compunction to redeem himself for his past crimes, finagling a partnership with a local homicide detective after a series of humorous misunderstandings. Spencer mines a lot of overt comedy out of the odd-couple pairing of the creepy reformed serial killer anti-hero and his short-tempered detective counterpart as they investigate a gruesome serial murder-mystery, but the real suspense in the book lies in guessing whether or not Press’ rehabilitation has really taken or if this is just a long-term ploy in a criminal master plan. Rossmo’s art is a perfect fit for the book, so it is unfortunate that he has since left the series due to creative differences with Spencer.

Clone, Vol. 1: First Generation

  • CloneV1_c1Story by: David Schulner
  • Art by: Juan Jose Ryp & Felix Serrano
  • Format: 128 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $12.99
  • Sale date: 29 May 2013
  • Publisher’s descriptionFrom ROBERT KIRKMAN’s Skybound imprint comes a sci-fi story like you’ve never seen before! Dr. Luke Taylor’s perfect life comes to a dramatic halt when an identical, bloodied version of himself arrives at his doorstep with news that he is one of many clones… and they’re all after his pregnant wife and their unborn child! Collects CLONE 1-5
  • Click here to read the seven-page preview.

This first collection for Clone is a good argument for not prematurely judging a series solely by the merits of its first issue and giving it a chance to grow into its storyline. While the opening chapter of First Generation is a bit of a herky-jerky mess of excessive cross-cutting that I can imagine reading a little poorly as a stand-alone “floppy,” subsequent chapters ably fill out the narrative with high-octane action, plot advancement, and meaningful character development. A solid Image Comics debut from newcomer David Schulner that thoughtfully addresses the moral quandaries posed by cloning technology and stem cell research as well as more philosophical questions of identity without letting the themes bog down the action. Some of the dialogue does come off as unnatural-sounding and platitudinous at times, though. Juan Jose Ryp’s detailed line art adds to the package’s overall appeal.

Comeback

  • comeback-tpb-cov-webStory & lettering: Ed Brisson
  • Art: Michael Walsh
  • Format: 126 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $14.99
  • Sale date: 08 May 2013
  • Publisher’s descriptionReconnect agents Mark and Seth go back in time to save people from their untimely demise – for a fee. But, when a rescue mission goes awry, both agents find themselves trapped in the past and on the run from both the FBI, who want to jail them, and their own employers who want to kill them to protect their own dark and deadly secrets. Collects COMEBACK 1-5, plus never-seen-before extras.
  • Click here to read the seven-page preview.

Time travel stories can often be problematic, in that the liberties taken with the linearity of the narrative can be the source of all sorts of plot holes and other story logic inconsistencies. Veteran letterer and Murder Book author Ed Brisson, in his lead writer debut for an Image Comics title, manages to avoid many of those pitfalls by sticking to a relatively straightforward conspiracy-based plot and the “Plastic Time” model of science-fiction time travel. Some readers might come away feeling a little unsatisfied with how Brisson addresses the resolution of paradoxes in the story or the lack of explanation as to how the existence of time travel technology affects the larger world of Comeback, however. Michael Walsh’s solid art rounds out what is on the whole an entertaining sci-fi romp.

Peter Panzerfaust, Vol. 2: Hooked [EDITOR’S PICK!]

  • Peter-Panzerfaust-Vol4Story by: Kurtis J. Wiebe
  • Art by: Tyler Jenkins
  • Colors: Heather Breckel
  • Lettering: Ed Brisson
  • Format: 128 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $1Sale date4.99
  • Sale date: 15 May 2013
  • Publisher’s descriptionAll the major players of the Peter Pan mythology come to new life in this action packed second volume, with new allies in Tiger Lily, Big Chief and the Braves. Combining forces with the French Resistance, Peter and the boys lead a deadly game of espionage to locate and free their lost brother, Felix. All that’s stopping them is the combined might of the Nazi army led by a cunning and ruthless adversary, Kapitan Haken himself! Collects PETER PANZERFAUST 6-10.
  • Click here to read the seven-page preview.

Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins’ offbeat recouching of J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy as a war story set in World War II France continues in this trade paperback. In the series’ second story-arc, the Lost Boys’ early exploits in Paris are told through the recollections and reminisces of Julien (a.k.a. “Curly”), detailing their first encounter with Tiger Lily, Big Chief, and the Braves—redesigned in the series as members of the French Resistance—and Peter’s fateful second duel against Hauptmann Haken, the dreaded “Hook” of the occupying German forces. On the surface of it, there are just so many ways that Wiebe’s ambitious and imaginative adaptation of the source material can break down: I will admit to scoffing a bit at the project’s conceit when I first heard of it early last year. But the series has just gone from strength to strength since its debut, earning its place as one of my favorite ongoing military comics of the past year. Instrumental to the book’s success is Wiebe’s focus on the characters’ relationships with each other, the genuine sense of high-stakes drama of the early World War II setting, as well as his commitment to a theme that is central to many examples of the best war fiction as well as Barrie’s Peter Pan work: that of the loss of innocence as adolescents transition to adulthood. Helping to tie it all together is the boldly-stylized art of Tyler Jenkins, who is able to combine both a cartoonish playfulness and a sense of dread and menace in his work. Brilliant, brilliant stuff all around. Very highly recommended.

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