The GeeksverseREVIEWS | Trades & Hardcovers: June 2013 releases, part 1

REVIEWS | Trades & Hardcovers: June 2013 releases, part 1
Published on Thursday, July 11, 2013 by
In part 1 of our reviews of the trades and hardcovers of June, we take a look at Conan, Vol. 13, Domovoi, Blood-C, Vol. 2, John K Presents! Spümcø Comic Book, and Saga, Vol. 2. Be sure to check back next week for part 2, when we review Prophet, Vol. 2, Womanthology: Space, and more! 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.

Dark Horse Books

Conan, Vol. 13: Queen of the Black Coast [EDITOR’S PICK]

  • conanv13_00Story by: Brian Wood
  • Art by: Becky Cloonan, James Harren
  • Colors by: Dave Stewart
  • Cover by: Massimo Carnevale
  • Format: 152 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $19.99
  • Sale date: 19 June 2013
  • Publisher’s description: Kicking off Dark Horse’s sweeping adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s “Queen of the Black Coast,” Conan turns his back on the civilized world and takes to the Western Ocean. Finding first danger and then passion in the arms of the pirate queen Bêlit, the Cimmerian begins a new life of pleasure and pillage along the Black Coast, in this epic of romance and terror! Collect issues #1-#6 of the Conan the Barbarian series.
  • Read the nine-page preview here.
  • Read the review of the previous volume here.

[Editor’s note: The following review is based on our previous review of the hardcover edition of the title.] Brian Wood has established himself as one of comics’ best new talents of the past fifteen years, but given the focus and tone of Wood’s most popular creator-owned works, I had some concerns about how good of a fit he would be on a licensed sword-and-sorcery title, adapting and elaborating on one of the most revered entries in the original Weird Tales Conan catalogue, no less. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have worried. Wood clearly respects the source material, but knows when to trust his own skills as a comics writer to tune it for sequential art and visual storytelling. And while Queen of the Black Coast may be the 13th installment in Dark Horse’s original adaptation of the Conan canon, it is about as accessible to the new reader as any of the early volumes featuring stand-alone stories. Becky Cloonan and James Harren’s art is also some of the best the Dark Horse Conan title has seen, and that’s strong praise considering the level of illustrator talent that’s worked on the line since its inception. I especially liked Cloonan’s take on the Cimmerian—it just makes sense that the barbarian would have the lean and functional musculature of an athlete instead of the bulky physique of a full-time bodybuilder that some of the prior artists have favored.

Domovoi

  • Domovoi1p0Writer-artist: Peter Bergting
  • Format: 136 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $19.99
  • Sale date: 19 June 2013
  • Publisher’s description: In the Old Town of Stockholm, where myths are alive and creatures of folklore haunt the night, an extraordinary young woman named Jennie is caught in the scheme of a cadre of villains who control the means to free the Domovoi—the lethally dangerous, poltergeist-like spirit of the entire city!
  • Read the seven-page preview here.

Swedish writer-illustrator Peter Bergting wastes no effort on introductory exposition in the opening to Domovoi, a loosely affiliated follow-up to the 2006 Image Comics miniseries The Portent, dropping readers in medias res, trusting them to fill in the narrative blanks as they hit the ground running with the fast-paced, modern fantasy narrative. Knowledge of the events of The Portent isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying Domovoi, but the latter does share some of the former’s folkloric themes. Bergting’s Sweden is a place full of everyday magic, where rusalka (water spirits) skulk under bridges, mystic spells help keep junky cars in running condition, and poleviki (dwarves) work as mercenaries and have no qualms about using semiautomatic pistols. As an additional note, the publisher-supplied solicitation text replicated in the “Publisher’s description” section above is inaccurate and out-of-date: Bergting changed the scope of his story partway through creating the book, and the plot no longer centers around a nefarious scheme to free old Stockholm’s domovoi (house spirit) but rather it is a more low-key story about protagonist Jennie dealing with the fallout from an ancestor’s past conflict with a denizen of the supernatural world. Comparisons with Mike Mignola’s Hellboy will inevitably come up in any reading of Domovoi, as the themes of the latter overlap with the former’s early exploration of Slavic supernatural horror and Bergting’s art style clearly takes at least some inspiration from Mignola’s work. This isn’t at all meant to suggest that Domovoi is derivative: The book has a fully-formed creative voice of its own and its beautifully crafted visuals owe as much to the European ligne claire aesthetic tradition as it does to Mignola’s stylized stuff.

A solid work through-and-through.

Dark Horse Manga

Blood-C, Vol. 2

  • bloodcv2p0Planning and presentation: CLAMP
  • Dialogue and art by: Ranmaru Kotone
  • Original production by: Production I.G./CLAMP
  • Format: 184 pages, black & white, trade paperback (oriented in right-to-left reading format)
  • List price: $12.99
  • Sale date: 05 June 2013
  • Publisher’s description: Saya promised to use her sword fighting skills to protect her classmates. When man-eating monsters start snatching away her friends, though, can she persevere? This manga series is based on an anime collaboration between CLAMP and Production I.G and continues the story line that began in the Blood+ anime and manga worlds!
  • Read the nine-page preview here.
  • Read the review of the previous volume here.

Things really ramp up in the second volume of Blood-C, the Production I.G./CLAMP-masterminded spin-off of Blood: The Last Vampire. Much of the book is devoted to the sprawling, extended fight scenes between Saya and the man-eating monsters that seem to have invaded her idyllic town, and Ranmaru Kotone takes full advantage of this by creating some really impressive action set-pieces. The extreme violence has a parodic bent to it that is almost surely intentional, serving to highlight Saya’s borderline-absurd, unquestioning acceptance of her role as an after-school monster-slayer. For all of the excellent fight choreography however, this series will require of readers who have yet to see the anime version of Blood-C—the first season of which is available for viewing on YouTube as a series of videos posted by international distributor FUNimation—some measure of faith that the story is actually headed somewhere beyond just being a showcase for refined, if somewhat typical, shonen manga craft.

IDW Publishing

John K Presents! Spümcø Comic Book

  • JohnK_Spumco-pr-001Story and art by: John Kricfalusi, with Jim Smith, Vincent Waller, Mike Fontanelli, Shane Glines, Rich Pursel
  • Format: 160 pages, full color, over-sized hardcover
  • List price: $34.99
  • Sale date: 05 June 2013
  • Publisher’s description: Legendary animator, John Kricfalusi, creator of Ren and Stimpy, George Liquor and the gorgeous girl heart-throb Sody Pop, loves comics (the good ones!) and has produced some crazy, fun, wild (and sexy) ones in the past. These raucous extravaganzas are now ultra-rare and expensive and eagerly sought after by his thousands of devoted fans. Yoe Books is pleased as punch to finally publish these comics in a large-format hardback collector’s edition book. Get this–it includes an astounding never before published 25-page epic comic “Jimmy the Drooling Numbskull in Nutty the Friendly Dump!” worth the price of admission alone!  John is joined by his cartoonist crew including Jim Smith, Vincent Waller, Mike Fontanelli, Shane Glines, Rich Pursel and more Spümcø greats! Simply titled John K. Presents! Spümcø Comic Book, this is going to be a major buzz book that you will want to be the first in your neighborhood to have!
  • Read the seven-page preview here.

John K Presents! Spümcø Comic Book is exactly what you’d expect from the unhinged animator minds that gave us The Ren & Stimpy Show and The Ripping Friends, as well as early made-for-web cartoons like The Weekend Pussy Hunt and The Goddamn George Liquor Program. The humor is decidedly off-color—readers with a low tolerance for poop-based and otherwise “juvenile” comedy would do well to avoid stories like “Remote Control Jimmy” and “Jimmy the Drooling Numbskull in Nutty the Friendly Dump”—but for fans of Kricfalusi’s animation, it should be all par for the course. There are genuine gut laughs to be found in this book for those who have an appreciation for Kricfalusi’s brand of illustrated physical comedy and gross-out humor which, even in a print medium like comics, manages to echo his distinct Chuck Jones-meets-Ralph Bakshi animation style.

Image Comics

Saga, Vol. 2 [EDITOR’S PICK]

  • SagaV2covStory by: Brian K. Vaughan
  • Art by: Fiona Staples
  • Format: 144 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $14.99
  • Sale date: 19 June 2013
  • Publisher’s description: Collecting the epic second storyline of the smash hit series Entertainment Weekly called “the kind of comic you get when truly talented superstar creators are given the freedom to produce their dream comic.” Thanks to her star-crossed parents Marko and Alana, newborn baby Hazel has already survived lethal assassins, rampaging armies, and alien monstrosities, but in the cold vastness of outer space, the little girl encounters her family’s greatest challenge yet: the grandparents. Collects SAGA #7-12.
  • Read the 37-page preview here. (NOTE: Some preview images are of a graphic sexual nature.)
  • Read the review of the previous volume here.

Somewhat overshadowed by all the controversy surrounding its occasional portrayal of sexual content is the fact that Saga, at its core, is just a whole lot of fun to read. Yes, Vaughan and Staples have managed to freshen up classic Shakespearean themes by admixing them with space opera and contemporary sensibilities—think of Saga as something like this generation’s Starstruck—and the book’s stylistic quirks, from the use of Esperanto in Vaughan’s always-snappy dialogue to Staples’ stylized palette, gives it a distinct linguistic and visual character. But none of that is really worth a proverbial hill of beans if the ultimate product isn’t actually entertaining, and that is what Saga is in spades. Perhaps Vaughan’s most impressive accomplishment with the series thus far is how he has taken the same incisive and bold satirical thoughtfulness of previous works like Pride of Baghdad, Ex Machina, and Y: The Last Man and infused it with a freewheeling sense of creative abandon and the result is a comic that has all of the gravity, but little of the “heaviness,” of those three standouts in his comics oeuvre.

Saga tackles fairly heavy themes of sexual and ethnic/racial politics, the human cost of protracted armed conflict, the transformative power of literature, among other things, but it never feels like one is being lectured at. It might sound like hyperbole, but I offer this statement with all sincerity: Vaughan and Staples’ Saga is intelligent without being condescending, suspenseful without being maddeningly obtuse, beautifully rendered but not gratuitous in visual detail, funny but not frivolous, provocative but not offensive, and expertly measured in all aspects of its storytelling. As an older comics reader, I sometimes find myself second-guessing creative teams’ narrative and design decisions, but there’s none of that with Vaughan and Staples’ Saga. When they say that the male-on-male bukkake scene from Saga #12 that earned the book a temporary ban on comiXology’s iOS app “is there to advance the story,” I believe them because they’ve earned my trust as a reader with the quality and consistency of their work on the title thus far.

Click here to read part 2 of our June 2013 trade & hardcover reviews

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