Graphic Novel Weekly 2/14/19: The Behemoths

Columns Comic Books Graphic Novel Weekly Reviews

Welcome back to Graphic Novel Weekly, a column that will bring you exciting graphic novel content each week. This week is another week of reviews, and it’s a beefy one! I am looking at the giant collections, the phone book-size bricks of content that are not just a great value, but also a great way to binge read. And this week, every single title is a winner! I’m going to be reviewing:

  • Black Hammer Library Edition, Volume 1: Secret Origins & The Event
  • Dark Metro: The Ultimate Edition
  • Robotech Archives: The Macross Saga, Volume 1

Stop back every Thursday for your weekly fill up! Next week, I’ll take a look at an exciting slate of science fiction releases. Now that the prelude is out of the way, are you ready to dive deep into these titles? Let’s go!

Black Hammer Library Edition, Volume 1: Secret Origins & The Event

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Dean Ormston, with David Rubín, Dustin Nguyen, Michael Allred, Emi Lenox, Nate Powell, Matt Kindt, Ray Fawkes, and Sharlene Kindt
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Physical Copy: $49.99
Digital Copy: $24.99

Looking for a take on post-modern superheroes that is more contemporary and less dreary than Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen? Read on!

The great battle is already over. Golden Gail, Barbalien, Abraham Slam, Madame Dragonfly, Col. Weird, TLK-E WLK-E, and Black Hammer took on Anti-God, and won, with Anti-God disappearing in a bright flash of light during the final blow. Now, they live on a farm outside a small town, Black Hammer is dead, and a strange barrier keeps them cut off from the rest of the world.

The real drama here comes from the very human interactions between the heroes-in-hiding. They all have their foibles and are trying to survive in a place they don’t understand and that has them trapped. Flashbacks give the reader the backstory and their origins, while in the present there is clearly a whole host of secrets and danger lurking under the surface.

Black Hammer is like when all the heroes “died” in Onslaught, they went to a new world a la Heroes Reborn, but instead of it being an extreme take on them, it was a Twin Peaks-style mystery. I have enjoyed everything I have read by Jeff Lemire, and this might be the best of the bunch.

Black Hammer Library Edition, Volume 1: Secret Origins & The Event does a nice job of collecting a large number of issues of this series. My main complaint is that Black Hammer Giant Sized Annual is placed at the end of the volume, rather than in chronological order. It is more of a flashback and deep dive into Col. Weird’s history, but the framing story clearly takes place before the events of the last few issues. Otherwise, this is a very handy way to snag the start of this story. I am impatiently waiting for the next library edition.

Dark Metro: The Ultimate Edition

Writer: Tokyo Calen
Artist: Yoshiken
Translators: Aska Yoshizu, Mike Kiefl, and Katie McLendon
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Physical Copy: $19.99
Digital Copy: Currently not available. You can purchase the first and second volumes digitally for $6.99 each, but volume 3 is only available as part of the edition reviewed here.

Thick horror manga with a creepy fingers-coming-out-of-mouth monster on the cover? Sign me up!

Dark Metro is effectively a collection of mostly stand-alone short stories connected by a recurring character. Seiya is a guide to the underworld, a contemporary Charon of sorts. He spends his time in the Japanese metro, which is a gateway between the land of the living and the souls of the dead. When the dead seek to bring the living with them before it is time for them to die, Seiya steps in to enforce the natural order. The stories include the dead seeking revenge for murder, jealousy, and abuse.

The short stories told here are effective. The build-up of suspense is deftly handled in most of these tales, with only a few seeming to move slowly. Perhaps oddest about this book is that, in the beginning, I was really craving a more fleshed out plotline connecting the stories, but after learning more about Seiya’s background and powers, the concluding battle felt anticlimactic. At the end of the book, I was missing the horror stories from the beginning of this massive volume.

Dark Metro truly excels when it deals with the spooky, unknown, and creeping dread. When it brings that horror out of the darkness and into direct, cataclysmic battle, the story really loses sight of what it does best.

If you are a fan of horror manga, I would truly encourage you to grab a copy of Dark Metro: The Ultimate Edition. Go into reading it with the mindset that it is a fantastic horror story collection, and not a novel-length story, and you will see all of its strengths.

Robotech Archives: The Macross Saga, Volume 1

Writers: Mike Baron, Jack Herman, and Carl Macek
Pencilers: Neil D. Vokes, Svea Stauch, Reggie Byers, Dave Johnson, and Mike Leeke
Inkers: Ken Steacy, Phil Lasorda, Rich Rankin, Tom Poston, Jeff Dee, Chris Kalnick, and Sam Keith
Colorists: Tom Vincent, Kurt Mausert, and Rick Taylor
Publisher: Titan Comics
Physical Copy: $24.99
Digital Copy: $24.99

Somehow I never really managed to fully encounter Robotech. The TV series came out before I was born, things had moved on to other hit crazes when I was old enough to appreciate it, and the more recent Robotech content wasn’t really on my radar. I read the first three Robotech novels written by Jack McKinney, but then life intervened and I never got to finish the series. So when Robotech Archives: The Macross Saga, Volume 1 came to my attention, I hesitated at first, and then thought, why not give this a go. And I loved it!

The story begins with a renegade alien spaceship fleeing with secret knowledge crash landing on Earth. This ship, the SDF-1, begins a multinational research investigation to unify a world at war. A decade later, humanity has harvested much of this technology and is ready to take SDF-1 on its maiden voyage. In the middle of the festivities, the Zentraedi arrive in the solar system, looking to collect their missing ship. In the battle to fight off the invading Zentraedi, the SDF-1, as well as the entire island city built up around it, are launched out past Pluto. The crew of the SDF-1 must use all their abilities and push their new robotechnology to its limits if they hope to survive.

First, the cons. This volume starts out with Genesis: Robotech, a prequel graphic novel set before the main series begins. This thing is very slow moving in parts, and it does not have the same internal consistency as the main plot. Also, the art generally gets better as this volume progresses, with some occasional rough art to start the volume off.

That said, otherwise this collection is some stellar space opera excitement! Occasionally, the story will stretch your suspension of disbelief. However, I found myself willing rolling with some of the ridiculousness because it was such a fun story. There is drama and seriousness, absolutely, but I cannot remember the last time I found so much joy across a collection this large. I gleefully ate up issue after issue, staying up way too late, simply because this was so fun to read.

Robotech Archives: The Macross Saga, Volume 1 has converted me to the Robotech fandom. There will be many more reviews of Robotech content to come. I cannot encourage space opera fans enough to grab a copy of this book.

Luke Forney and/or GeekDad received copies of each of the graphic novels included in this list for review purposes.

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