The GeeksverseREVIEWS | Trades & Hardcovers: June 2013 releases, part 2

REVIEWS | Trades & Hardcovers: June 2013 releases, part 2
Published on Saturday, July 20, 2013 by
We review the rest of the June trade paperbacks and hardcovers we managed to read, including the newest collections for The Victories, Oreimo, Womanthology, and Prophet. 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.

Click here to read part 1 of our June 2013 trade & hardcover reviews.

Dark Horse Books

Michael Avon Oeming’s The Victories, Vol. 1: Touched

  • victor_vol1Story and art: Michael Avon Oeming
  • Colors: Nick Filardi
  • Format: 136 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $9.99
  • Sale date: 12 June 2013
  • Publisher’s description: Not long from now, all that will stand between you and evil are THE VICTORIES: heroes sworn to protect us from crime, corruption, and the weird designer drug known as Float. As one member hits the streets looking for blood, he discovers himself touched by a painful past through the powers of a psychic. Will this trauma cause him to self-destruct or to rejoin the good fight? Collects the five-issue miniseries.
  • Read the four-page preview here.

I like a lot of things about Michael Avon Oeming’s The Victories, Vol. 1: Touched. There’s Oeming’s distinct art, first and foremost, which incorporates a graphic design-influenced approach to the figure work: Characters’ silhouettes and color schemes are as distinct as their faces, and they almost leap out of every panel whenever they’re depicted in dynamic, action-packed situations. There’s an interesting portrayal of substance abuse, including a brief character interlude that achieves the equivalent of sequential art poetry in its juxtaposition and combination of words and images in the service of establishing mood and feeling. But lead character Faustus’ narration can get grating after a while, the thematic ground the book covers—exploring the fuzzy moral divide between vigilantism and “superheroing”—is well-trodden, and there are also portions of the book that struck me as featuring “grim and gritty” excess for the sake of featuring “grim and gritty” excess, and times when the emotional pendulum of the writing would swing to a melodramatic, ridiculously sentimental extreme. Touched accomplishes the task of introducing readers to Oeming’s new superhero team and at its best moments, really sings and can stand up to some of the first-rate, recent “mature readers” superhero comics out there. But it’s also an uneven read that disappoints almost as much as it delights.

Dark Horse Manga

Oreimo, Vol. 3

  • oreimov3p0Story by: Tsukasa Fushimi
  • Art by: Sakura Ikeda
  • Format: 176 pages, black & white, trade paperback (oriented in right-to-left reading format)
  • List price: $10.99
  • Sale date: 26 June 2013
  • Publisher’s description: Things get even weirder for Kyousuke and his vexing little sister Kirino—and all their friends! Crushes, misunderstandings, jealousy, meddling relatives, beautiful girls . . . looks like Kyousuke is going to have to ask for advice from his sister. She might just help him, but only if he does her a big favor in return, and if he can stop saying just the wrong thing at the wrong time!
  • Read the eight-page preview here.
  • Read the review of the previous volume here.

We did this the last time we reviewed a volume of Oreimo, but in case you weren’t there (and you skipped the link to the review of Oreimo, Vol. 2 above), let’s do it again: There are very culture-specific treatments of “cuteness” and the idea of blossoming into young adulthood in Tsukasa Fushimi’s Oreimo, one that many, if not most, Western readers may find a little strange or even outright off-putting, but I tried to put it all in its proper context as best as I can in my review of the first volume, which a reader unfamiliar with the property would be well-served to read.

Now, if you can get past those issues, Oreimo, Vol. 3 is actually pretty entertaining as far as romantic/slice-of-life comedy manga goes and Sakura Ikeda’s clean renderings and dynamic flair for storytelling make for engaging visuals, even when most of the character interactions are confined to conversations. The focus in this volume is primarily on the relationship between protagonist Kyousuke Kosaka and his childhood friend and classmate Manami Tamura. Kyousuke is caught in the no-man’s land between boyfriend and best friend, whereas Manami clearly views her relationship with Kyousuke in a romantic light even if he is obviously ambivalent about treating it that way, and the whole set-up makes for some funny cringe-comedy moments.

IDW Publishing

The Crow: Skinning the Wolves

  • Crow_STW-pr-001Story: James O’Barr
  • Art: James O’Barr and Jim Terry
  • Format: 104 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $17.99
  • Sale date: 05 June 2013
  • Publisher’s description: In this all-new tale James O’Barr and artist Jim Terry craft a harrowing story set in a concentration camp in 1945 Europe. The night train is being unloaded. And one of the passengers is making a return visit…
  • Read the seven-page preview here.

James O’Barr’s The Crow can be described as many things. Violent, for sure. Tragic, definitely. Genuinely affecting even, if one were to read with the appropriate mindset. What it isn’t usually described as is complex, at least in terms of its morality. In The Crow, everything the eponymous undead avenger does to his foes is ultimately justified by a most basic, Old Testament notion of retribution: An eye for an eye and all that. O’Barr makes it even easier than usual for the reader to buy into the revenge-as-justice schema in The Crow: Skinning the Wolves by situating the whole affair in a World War II concentration camp, because really, if anyone deserves to die a gruesome, painful death, it’s those sneering Nazi bastards, right? There’s an EC Comics-style sense of morbid humor in all the creative ways the designated Crow gleefully metes out his brand of lethal instant karma, but even at just three issues/104 pages, the whole affair feels a tad rote and drawn out, with no real suspense attached to the story’s eventual outcome (SPOILER: all the bad guys die) or any attempts at upending reader expectations in terms of characterizations.

Womanthology: Space

  • Womanthology_Space-pr-001Stories by: Sandy Carpenter, Bonnie Burton, Chrissie Zullo, Blair Butler, Joelle Sellner, Ellise Heiskell, Stacie Ponder, Rachel Edidin, Jennifer De Guzman, Robin Furth, Devin Grayson, Jody Houser, Christine Ellis
  • Art by: Ming Doyle, Stephanie Hans, Jessica Hickman, Stacie Ponder, Maja K., Tanja, Anna Bowie, Alicia Fernandez, Jean Kang, Maarta Laiho, Leigh Dragoon, Sophia Foster-Dimino, Sally Thompson, Kathryn Lano, Lindsay Walker, Lois Van Baarle
  • Format: 128 pages, full color, hardcover
  • List price: $24.99
  • Sale date: 05 June 2013
  • Publisher’s description: Womanthology: Space, the follow up to the hit Kickstarter project, Womanthology: Heroic brings more tales, pinups, how-tos, and more by women of all ages and experience.
  • Read the 11-page preview here.

The best asset of the anthology format, its variety and diversity of styles and content, can also be its biggest liability. For every strong entry in the volume like Ming Doyle’s “The Adventures of Princess Plutonia” and Rachel Edidin and Sophia Foster-Dimino’s charming “Countdown,” there are stories that are less-than-satisfying for any number of reasons, although the most common issue among the weaker stories in the anthology was a level of technical polish that doesn’t measure up to that of the better tales in the book. Fortunately, my net opinion of this volume is tilted towards the positive by its inclusion of more than just short stories. Besides pin-ups (all of which look great), there are genuinely educational articles in Womanthology: Space: a short but detailed biography of pioneering female Golden Age comics artist Lily Renee, as well as instructive tutorials on scripting comics and digital painting.

Image Comics

Prophet, Vol. 2: Brothers [EDITOR’S PICK]

  • ProphetV2_coverStory by: Brandon Graham and Simon Roy
  • Art by: Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milonogiannis, Brandon Graham
  • Cover: Giannis Milonogiannis
  • Format: 172 pages, full color, trade paperback
  • List price: $14.99
  • Sale date: 26 June 2013
  • Publisher’s description: The distant future war continues, Old man Prophet is awake now and searching across the universe for old allies that have survived the centuries since the last war. Collects PROPHET #27-32.
  • Read the seven-page preview here.
  • Read the review of the previous volume here.

[Editor’s note: The following review is based on a reading of the compiled single issue review copies previously provided by the publisher.]

After a meandering—one could even say sluggish—initial story arc, the narrative tightens up and a clearer focus for the book’s overall endgame emerges in the second volume of Brandon Graham’s drastic reimagining of the old Extreme Studios character.  That description of Graham’s take on Prophet isn’t meant as a dig, by the way: the slow pacing strikes me as contemplative, with Graham and his crew letting the pages “breathe” so to speak—a lazy shorthand characterization of it would “Humanoids-esque” (in reference to the slow-to-build-steam quality associated with the French publisher’s sci-fi graphic novels).

Still, the more conventional advancement and structure of the Brothers story arc will no doubt be appreciated by readers who may have grown a little restless with Prophet. Also welcome? The appearance of Youngblood’s Diehard. Yes, one of the strengths of the relaunched title is that it ditched the dubious trappings of its origins by situating the character in the far, far future of the Extreme Studios universe away from the “Blood-Blood” nonsense of the early/mid-1990s, but I had also begun questioning why Graham bothered with relaunching the title in the first place if he was severing any and all ties to Prophet’s superhero past, as his work in last year’s Prophet, Vol. 1: Remission seemed to be indicating at the time. The Diehard appearance isn’t just a perfunctory nod to the 1990s, either. The cyborg has been updated to fit into the decidedly more peculiar sci-fi stylings of the title and he is positioned in an important supporting role.

One area I’m pleased to report is unchanged from the previous volume is the art. The book’s detailed, sketchy, and wildly imaginative aesthetic is kept consistent throughout the book and between volumes, even with a virtual squad of illustrators contributing to the visuals. Little touches, like the panels featuring schematic/diagrammatic breakdown of equipment and geographical features or John Prophet almost compulsively taking every opportunity to eat animal protein to maintain his body, add a depth to the visual storytelling.

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