Graphic Novel Weekly 3/7/19: It Gets Personal

Reading Time: 11 minutes

It’s that time again! Welcome back to Graphic Novel Weekly. I’d call it Graphic Novel, Trade Paperback, Collection, Original Graphic Novel, and Extended One-Shot Weekly, but our titles have a character use limit.  This week, Graphic Novel Weekly gets personal! I’m going to be looking at titles that focus on character to tell their stories. While most of these titles are grounded in settings mostly set in reality, it wouldn’t be Graphic Novel Weekly if we didn’t sneak out to space for a bit. This week, I’ll be reviewing:

  • Spirou: The Diary of a Naive Young Man
  • Taxi Tales: The Fragrant Lady
  • Seven Places Without You
  • Mister George, Volume 1
  • Melvile: The Story of Samuel Beauclair
  • American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1990s
  • The Wrath of Fantômas
  • Stellar, Volume 1

I hope you’re as excited as I am! And remember, Graphic Novel Weekly is your weekly source for graphic novel reviews. I hope you’ll join us next week for another set of 8 reviews of exciting new titles!

Brief Announcements

I have some exciting things to pass along to readers of this column! There is some exciting news out from Titan Comics about their current Robotech series, which I will be jumping in on here in the next few weeks. You can find the announcement at the boottom of this post. Scroll down, or click here!

Also, if you haven’t been following Mathias DeRider on GeekDad, you really should give him a look. His “How to Collect” series is incredible, and goes into way more depth in series than I can here. His newest article, “Hey, Why Did I Buy These?” just went up this weekend. Read it here!

Spirou: The Diary of a Naive Young Man


Writer: Émile Bravo
Artist: Émile Bravo
Translator: Tom Imber
Publisher: Europe Comics on behalf of Dupuis
Physical Copy: Digital Only
Digital Copy: $8.99

While not all comic fans have read The Adventures of Tintin, I imagine most are familiar with Hergé’s series character who goes on adventures. Tintin is one of the best-known comics characters to come out of Belgium. However, he isn’t the only young male adventurer in the collective comic consciousness of Belgium. Enter Spirou.

Spirou is a bellhop who is moderately terrible at his job, but who has charisma for days. He is friendly, easily distracted, and runs into trouble before thinking. So when the hotel he works at is the scene of a meeting of nations attempting to prevent World War II, some sort of hijinks must be about to occur. Invariably, things are only going to get more confusing when a journalist who oversteps bounds and a new maid at the hotel both find themselves drawn into Spirou’s orbit.

After a bit of a slow start, The Diary of a Naive Young Man finds its legs. There is something charmingly nostalgic about Spirou’s origin story that draws in the reader. The writing lends itself to the nostalgia for a charming age that really never existed, with Spirou’s silly melodrama underlying the horrific violence of World War II. That isn’t intended as a condemnation of this volume; indeed, creating nostalgia for a non-existent way of life is a skill, and makes Spirou all the more charming.

I had not been aware of Spirou before this volume’s ending statement of this being his origin story. It certainly has me intrigued to check out more of his adventures. Fans of charming adventure tales with a heavy dose of slapstick humor should give Spirou: The Diary of a Naive Young Man a read.

CONTENT WARNING: Some of the more slapstick humor in this book involves an adult slapping around a teenage Spirou. It isn’t played as gruesome, and no serious injuries occur, but it does feel like a relic of a time when children being hit could fall under comedy. Keep that in mind as you consider giving this a read.

Taxi Tales: The Fragrant Lady


Writer: Ergün Gündüz
Artist: Ergün Gündüz
Translator: Cem Ulgen
Publisher: Europe Comics on behalf of Marmara Cizgi
Physical Copy: Digital Only
Digital Copy: $5.99

So it turns out this isn’t about a smelly lady, which is how I originally took the title to sarcastically mean. Boy, was I embarrassed at my misstep. Instead, it is about a lady that I don’t really recall being that aromatic throughout the story, but I suppose Taxi Tales: The Averagely-Scented Lady doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely.

Yalçin is a taxi driver in Istanbul who picks up an old man in the middle of the night. On the drive, the man tells Yalçin about his relationship with Flore, a Frenchwoman who visited Istanbul in the 1950s. From there, the story shifts back in time, exploring this tumultuous relationship that lives ever present in his mind.

The biggest weakness of Taxi Tales: The Fragrant Lady was the framing story. Yalçin exists solely to be talked at, and his passenger (passengers, I suppose, given that Taxi Tales is an ongoing series) lives up to the moment, spouting off a sixty-year-old tale full of drama, sex, and drugs. The whole scenario feels very contrived.

Moving past that, the main story inside the frame was very appealing. It read very smoothly, telling the story of a man in over his head, drawn into an exciting lifestyle by Flore. Fueled by drugs and angst, the pair explode through life at a rate that cannot be maintained. The setting itself also feels beautifully realized, a rich, vibrant, and lived-in city that oozes atmosphere.

Read The Fragrant Lady for the core story, of young love and passion for life. It isn’t perfect, but it is an engaging, atmospheric saga.

CONTENT NOTE: This title contains quite a bit of nudity and drug abuse, which I wasn’t really expecting from the cover description. It mostly fits the needs of the story, but means that Taxi Tales: The Fragrant Lady wouldn’t be the best fit for young readers.

Seven Places Without You


Writer: Juan Berrio
Artist: Juan Berrio
Translator: Fiona Marshall
Publisher: Europe Comics on behalf of Dibbuks Ediciones
Physical Copy: Digital Only
Digital Copy: $8.99

I’m drawn to tranquil meditations on love and loss. They provide a cathartic release that can be reinvigorating. Seven Places Without You billed itself as just such an exploration, so I wanted to give it a try. How did it hold up, compared to some of the best examples of the genre, like The People Inside?

Elena and Jorge are at a stage in their relationship in which they are growing distant from one another. Jorge is spending less and less time at home with Elena, and the absence is severing the connection Elena feels with him. She decides to move out, and explore being on her own for the first time. As she goes on this relational journey, she seeks to learn more about herself and about her relationship with Jorge.

Seven Places Without You feels like a mellow indie comic working its way, through dialogue-light progressions, to a stirring conclusion. However, the pay off didn’t feel sufficient to the journey. Rather than concluding, the story simply seemed to end. While this might be more accurate to life, in a narrative context it felt incomplete.

Overall, Seven Places Without You isn’t a bad read. It takes its time, and is easy to slip into. I just wished there was more substance to it. Consider giving it a read if you are looking for an indie-style tale of mourning lost love, but don’t set the bar too high.

Mister George, Volume 1


Writer: Serge Le Tendre and Rodolphe
Artist: Hugues Labiano
Translator: Mercedes Claire Gilliom
Publisher: Europe Comics on behalf of Le Lombard
Physical Copy: Digital Only
Digital Copy: $5.99

A drama following a man who just might be something other than what he seems being hidden in a small town? Sounds pretty cool! I figured I would take a look at this French title for a quick, exciting thrill ride.

George Price is a mechanic who recently had surgery to remove a brain tumor. Following such an enormous procedure, he is experiencing some pretty intense amnesia, along with other mental health issues. With his wife and father-in-law by his side, though, he is doing his best to live a happy, productive life. Until everything falls out from under him. He begins to question the life around him, while a journalist on the hunt for a murderer finds George to be a little too familiar to the man she has been reporting on.

Mister George, Volume 1 is simply ok. I was really hoping for it to be exciting and dynamic, and at times it showed the tension of its underlying mystery, but overall it was just an acceptable entry. Thrillers and mysteries are currently very strong subgenres in comics work, so titles need to do something special to stand out. Mister George has not done that yet.

I’m interested enough to check out the second volume of Mister George, but not so interested that it is on the top of my to-read list. Fans of the genre will likely find something to enjoy here, but I don’t anticipate Mister George receiving strong acclaim unless the next volume is significantly stronger.

Melvile: The Story of Samuel Beauclair


Writer: Romain Renard
Artist: Romain Renard
Translator: Edward Gauvin
Publisher: Europe Comics on behalf of Le Lombard
Physical Copy: Digital Only
Digital Copy: $8.99

I imagine by this stage you are starting to realize that this week features a ton of translated works. I’m fascinated by how this medium that I love exists in other countries and cultures. This week alone, I’m reviewing comics from Belgium, Turkey, Spain, and France. Melvile: The Story of Samuel Beauclair is another entry from France. Does it stand toe-to-toe with fellow French titles Mister George and The Wrath of Fantômas? Let’s find out!

Samuel Beauclair wrote his first novel, got another book deal, an agent, and an editor. At which point his writing career came to a grinding halt. He fled to his deceased father’s cabin in Melvile, haunted by the memories of his past and his ongoing failure to produce new work. Taking on a new job working on a house, he begins to develop feelings for the homeowner’s sister, staying out later and later before coming home to his pregnant wife. As his life begins to be more and more possessed by the stories of his past, how will Samuel get his life back together?

I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect from this title, as “man cheats on wife to find meaning in life” isn’t exactly my cup of tea. However, Melive proved to be so much more than that. This complicated story explores its characters in depth, allowing Samuel to be full of shades of gray rather than black and white morality. Even more so, it navigates Samuel’s life in a meaningful, mature way.

I loved Melvile. Adult readers looking for a mature, intelligent rumination on the struggles of living up to the past and processing grief should definitely consider giving Melvile: The Story of Samuel Beauclair a try.

American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1990s


Writer: Jason Sacks
Publisher: TwoMorrows Publishing
Physical Copy: $44.95
Digital Copy: Not Available

I was born in the late ‘80s, so my formative comic book reading years were the 1990s. As much as the comics of that time are the butt of jokes, for me there was something magical about the hyperdynamic soap operas that exploded out of this decade. As a loyal X-Men fan, I got to experience all of the shifts and excesses of the era.

In American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1990s, Jason Sacks presents a holistic picture of the decade in American comics. Broken down year by year, Sacks examines the trends, the key events, and the important characters and creators as they traveled through the evolving comics scene.

Before anyone gets worried, you are correct: American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1990s isn’t a graphic novel. It is a coffee table-style book full of images that explores the history of the medium, and as such should appeal to graphic novel readers. And what Sacks has accomplished here is truly impressive. The amount of research that went into this book is staggering. Including covers, interior artwork, references to vast amounts of articles, interviews specifically for this volume, and mountains more, Sacks creates as close to a definitive picture of the decade as it is possible to have.

This book is fact-first, so don’t go looking for a plot. Sacks has a very comfortable writing style, and the book moves along enjoyable. That said, since 1990 was not the beginning of the comics history, and 1999 wasn’t the end, rather than create a false narrative arc Sacks presents the years straightforwardly and factually. Each year is broken down into major comics events of the year, from the major publishers to the small press and indie titles.

I have not encountered as definitive and excellent an exploration of American comics in the ‘90s as this. Fans of this era should absolutely not miss out on this volume.

The Wrath of Fantômas


Writer: Olivier Bocquet
Artist: Julie Rocheleau
Translator: Edward Gauvin
Based on the Novel Series: Fantômas
Novels Written By: Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain
Publisher: Statix Press (Titan Comics)
Physical Copy: $29.99
Digital Copy: $29.99

I initially encountered the concept of Fantômas with the character Fantomex from Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men. While I didn’t always love Morrison’s run, I believe he was critical in keeping the characters from falling into stagnation and cancellation. Because of his ideas, I was fascinated, and explored Fantômas a bit more. I hadn’t thought much of the character recently, but when The Wrath of Fantômas was announced, it brought back a lot of fond memories and I decided to give it a whirl.

In 1895, Paris believes it has finally escaped the devastation wrought upon it by the criminal Fantômas. Captured and sentenced to death, Fantômas faces the guillotine. After his execution, however, Fantômas reappears, bent on revenge. Can Paris survive another of Fantômas’ crime sprees?

The Wrath of Fantômas travels many related dramas, from mystery to crime to thriller. Above all, it is dark. Fantômas is not a charming villain, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s take on Loki. Fantômas is vicious, violent, and unafraid of committing great evil to achieve his ends. The police struggle to keep up, and can only hope to contain his onslaught.

The plot flows strongly, for the most part. It does feel like it meanders and loses itself at times, but it always comes back to a strong central core. The art is very evocative and atmospheric, although it also was occasionally unclear. There is clearly passion for the subject matter, although the execution was not of quite as high a level.

Fans of crime fiction should definitely give The Wrath of Fantômas a shot. It is a solid addition to a growing array of graphic novel crime fiction. It isn’t as revolutionary as, say, the work being done by Brubaker and Phillips, but it is a solid addition.

CONTENT NOTE: When I said above that this comic is dark, I meant it. Heavy themes of violence, oppression, and power and control make this a title more suitable for mature readers.

Stellar, Volume 1


Writer: Joseph Keatinge
Artist: Bret Blevins
Publisher: Skybound (Image Comics)
Physical Copy: $16.99
Digital Copy: $16.99

It is exciting to live in a world where movies like Captain Marvel are coming out and grand action science fiction epics can have women exploding out of the cover at them. I’ve always been a big proponent of representation in comics, and even more so since gaining a step-daughter. So I try to give exciting comics with female protagonists a shot, knowing that, if her interests don’t veer too wildly (yeah, I know…) she’ll be looking for more mature fiction one day.

After being brought to a concentration camp-style facility in the future, a young woman is transformed into a military weapon, codenamed Stellar. Escaping the war, Stellar finds herself working as a bounty hunter. But she wasn’t the only human weapon created to fight in this future war, and the others aren’t done with her just yet. Action, violence, parallel realities, and generational vengeance fuel this tale.

Stellar was pretty much just ok. It ends up being a very dark story oh the struggle to find meaning when your only meaning is war, and the massive vengeance plot by the antagonist is pretty cold. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be much life to the story. There could have been a really great story buried here, but overall I felt it was lacking.

If you are looking for a dark tale set in a grim future, then consider giving this a go. But if you give it a pass, you aren’t missing too much.

Titan Comics’ Robotech Announcement

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FIRST LOOK!
TITAN’S UPCOMING ROBOTECH STORY – “EVENT HORIZON”
ACCLAIMED WRITER BRENDEN FLETCHER JOINS SIMON FURMAN AND HENDRY PRASETYA TO USHER IN A RADICAL NEW ERA FOR ROBOTECH COMICS – STARTING IN 2019’S FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!

We are thrilled to reveal the first covers to Titan’s new Robotech storyline – EVENT HORIZON – kicking off in a special Free Comic Book Day 2019 (Saturday May 4, 2019) issue of Robotech!

Fans can expect this special free edition to shine a spotlight on unseen events and major hints of things to come, as the Robotech series charges up for an all-new spectacular storyline starting in Issue #21 called Event Horizon.

Plus, best-selling writer Brenden Fletcher (Isola, Motor Crush, Power Rangers) will be joining the superstar Robotech comics team of Simon Furman and Hendry Prasetya on the deck of the SDF-1 for continuing Robotech adventures – based on the legendary ‘80s sci-fi animation by Harmony Gold.

QUOTE FROM NEW WRITER BRENDEN FLETCHER

“I was obsessed with ROBOTECH in the mid ‘80s. I recorded every episode of the TV show on Beta tapes, collected the Matchbox action figures and religiously turned up at my local comic book store every week to see if there was a new issue of the series in my subscription bag. If you’d told little 10-year old me all those years ago that in the future I’d be the person writing the ROBOTECH comic, there’s no way I would have believed you.

But here we are! It’s 2019 and I’m working with this incredible team at Titan Comics to support Simon Furman and Hendry Prasetya’s massive ROBOTECH comic event with back-up stories that set the stage for my OWN run on the series later in the year. MIND. BLOWN.

I couldn’t possibly be more honoured that Titan would entrust a longtime-fan like me to chronicle the further adventures of the crew of the SDF-1 and can’t wait for readers new and old alike to see what we’ve got planned for the future of ROBOTECH!”

First airing in the USA in 1985, Robotech was the gateway to anime for many fans – capturing their imagination with its epic generational storyline involving war, romance, and, of course, the transforming Veritech fighters that defend the Earth against extra-terrestrial attacks.

Produced by Harmony Gold USA, the original 85-episode series delved into humanity’s struggle against a series of alien invasions, from the gigantic Zentraedi to the mysterious Invid, battling for control of advanced alien technology that crash-landed on Earth.

Robotech joins Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor as the second of Titan’s two Free Comic Book Day offerings.

Look for further details on the new direction of Robotech very shortly.

To keep up to date with news about Titan’s Robotech comics, follow Titan Comics on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr.

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

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