Hello, and welcome to another week of Graphic Novel Weekly! This week, I’m mixing it up a bit. It seems as though the single issue versus trade-waiting debate is still alive and well, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the matter. After that, I’ll dive into seven new reviews. This week will feature:
As you’ve probably gathered from the title this week, there were some winners and some losers on the review front this go-round. Be sure to check out the reviews to see which is which! And if you want to check out the other exciting editions of Graphic Novel Weekly, just click here!
Coming Next Week!
I’m very excited, because over the next three weeks Graphic Novel Weekly will be featuring interviews with creators of titles I am quite excited about. Next week, I’ll be featuring a review of the new graphic novel adaption of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, including preview pages and an interview with the creator behind the adaption, Renée Nault!
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Why I Switched to Trades
For those of you newer to the comics industry and for those who are not as involved in comics fandom, you might be unfamiliar with the debate about “trade waiting.” I’m going to briefly lay down the groundwork here, so if you are comfortable with the debate and the jargon, go ahead and jump to the paragraph starting, “The debate begins…”! Trade waiting is when someone waits for a “trade paperback” collection of a series rather than buying it in single issues as those are released. Trades are different from graphic novels, or OGNs (original graphic novel), as OGNs are never released as single issues but are only released as a collection-length book. If it helps, think of single issue releases of comics as individual TV episodes, trades/collections as a collected season of a show, and OGNs as movies. A collection of TV episodes may be the same length as a movie, but a viewer likely wouldn’t equate them as being the same thing as a movie. The same goes for collections and graphic novels.
This is a relatively new phenomenon, as it wasn’t until the last couple decades that ongoing series were being regularly, consistently collected and released in paperback and hardcover volumes. For some readers, their first encounter with, and possibly the only way they encounter, comics is through collected editions, as these are regularly available at bookstores. This is part of the appeal of collections. Other benefits include price (collections are far cheaper than buying single issues), availability (it can be hard to find exactly what you need in a back issue bin), and, in a society falling in love with binge-watching TV, it allows you to binge-read either an entire series or a significant chunk of one, similar to watching an entire season of a TV show. Collections also allow access to older comics that may be harder to find or much more expensive, but the debate (and thus this article) focuses primarily on collections of recent issues.
The debate begins to arise when we compare the benefits of collections with the benefits of buying single issues. The main benefit of buying single issues is that you get access to the story sooner than if you trade wait. The other benefits are either becoming out-moded or are tangential to the reading experience. Some would argue that reading a comic in single issue format is how the comic was meant to be read. And a few decades ago, they would be absolutely correct. Today, however, comics seem to be shifting into a “writing for the trade” model. Rather than a single issue being a complete story, story arcs become more common. This can still be facilitated in single issues, if the writers attend to the serial nature of the format. Yet, more and more, individual issues feel like a chopped up graphic novel, with no recap or refresh or story beat to bring you back up to speed on the story after a month away. Worse, many comics show their narrative arc as not fitting a single issue model, but instead hitting the plot climax around the fourth and fifth issues of a six-issue story, without distinct beginnings, middles, and ends of single issues to coincide. The art of single-issue comic writing is not being regularly practiced today.
The other issue is around the industry model of success. Many publishers still determine whether a series is making high enough sales to continue based on single issue sales. Marvel Comic is particularly notorious for this, canceling a series and capping it at the end of its first arc, which they then release in trade. There have been a growing number of instances in which the trade sells far better than the single issues, leaving Marvel with a potential success story that has already been cancelled pre-emptively months prior. Many indie creators, with those working under Image Comics being a vocal subset of those, also encourage single issue sales, as those sales help drive the story forward month to month. They rely on single issues sales to sustain them until the collections release every five or six months. Yet many Image series are both blatantly written to a graphic novel standard and then chunked, or fall behind and go months between issues. Worse, sometimes they do both.
There seems to be a mental block in the industry to acknowledge the rapidly growing market for book-length comics, whether collections or OGNs. Embracing this evolving model would allow for comics creators and publishers to make more money, more consistently, and would provide readers with a better experience, reading the story as it was originally intended without the constraints of a false single-issue model. Young adult comics seem to have done a better job with this, as most of the comics for younger readers I encounter are OGNs. Scholastic Books, in particular, has done a fantastic job of this, releasing top notch content at an affordable price without single-issue gimmicks.
I switched to collections initially for the cost benefit. I felt strongly about the single-issue approach, because “that’s how comics should be.” However, I couldn’t afford comics on my budget, as a graduate student with a family to help support, so I trade waited. And I loved it. I got more enjoyment out of what I was reading. The stories that felt chunked up before now read smoothly, and the few series that did do a good job of working as single-issue titles didn’t seem to suffer from being read back-to-back.
I rediscovered my love for comics when I switched to trade waiting. It felt like I was reading comics how they were actually being written. It was fun to immerse myself in those worlds for longer periods of time. While it can be tough to wait five or six months between collections, when they do come it is easily to slip back into them, because I have a strong foundation from the previous collections.
I am a trade waiter, and I love it.
I first came across Martin Eden’s work when collected editions of his first series, The O Men, began releasing on Comixology. I really got into the series, and read as much of it as was available at that time. Life intervened, and I lost track of Eden and his work. So, imagine my joy when I found out about Zeros, Eden’s new work set in the same universe as his other series, The O Men and Spandex.
Everyone in the world has powers, and the world has adapted accordingly. At the Powertown Institute, students are divided by power set, allowing them to train with others who have similar powers. However, Class O – known as Class Zero to the school bullies – is for students whose powers have not developed yet. When a new teacher takes over Class Zero, however, things are about to change. A lot. With growing powers, friendships form and mysterious figures behind the scenes begin to tinker with their plans.
While Eden’s other series are geared towards older audiences, Zeros is designed for younger readers. The start of the series lays out the world building a little abruptly, with heavy narration, but very quickly Eden finds his stride and the characters begin to emerge. In many ways, the thematic atmosphere of this story reminds me of the cartoons my stepdaughter watches: semi-goofy action-comedy. However, Eden does a better job than most of these cartoons at balancing serious moments within the story. Characters grow and feel emotions, talk and learn from failure.
There are a couple of missteps. Occasionally, events work out a little too conveniently to serve the plot. There are also a couple of grammar issues, although these are spread out across the entire length of the series thus far, so they aren’t too significant.
I really enjoyed Zeros, and it gets better and better as it goes. Zeros is being released initially as a webcomic, and you can catch up on the series at the link below. It’s absolutely worth a read. I encourage fans of younger reader-friendly super hero school stories to get to reading Zeros.
Available for free at the Zeros Comic website.
Haunted Horror, Volume 7: Cry From the Coffin! And Much More!
I imagine that many people that are fans of pre-comic code horror comics are familiar with Haunted Horror. For the uninitiated, Haunted Horror reprints older horror shorts from the wide array of horror anthology comics that used to exist. Because of the lackadaisical creator attributions in the early days of comics, it is very difficult to get credit attributions for these stories or track favorite creators. What Haunted Horror does do is present a massive selection of early stories for a very affordable price.
As with any anthology, most readers won’t enjoy every title presented herein. Mileage will vary, and for me, many of these stories didn’t quite hit the mark. Ted Adams’ introduction pretty plainly states that most of these stories are more eerie or supernatural than horror by today’s standards, and he is spot on in his assessment. Especially in this collection, most of the stories use horror tropes but don’t have particularly successful storytelling. Suspense is not particularly frequent here. These stories more so seem to fit the mold of folk tales, told with a certain level of mater-of-fact-ness that strips them of some of their narrative potential.
Haunted Horror seems to be missing the mark a bit. As a nostalgia trip, this might be more successful, but the lack of boundary-pushing stories and the notable absence of major players like Creepy makes this volume of Haunted Horror weaker than I had hoped. This is more successful as a textual time capsule than as a gripping read.
The Corsairs of Alcibiades, Book 1: Secret Elite
Writer: Denis-Pierre Filippi
Artist: Éric Liberge
Translator: Matt Madden
Publisher: Europe Comics on behalf of Dupuis
Purchase: Digital Only
The Corsairs of Alcibiades promised action and adventure. I’m normally not really intrigued by books that flaunt being set in early-1800’s England, but the combination of the cover art and the promised mystery and intrigue drew me in. I’m glad it did.
Five people from across the spectrum of careers and morals are kidnapped by men in masks and brought to a facility where they are told that they need to pass a test to be accepted further. Surrounded by others who were similarly kidnapped, this group notes that being kidnapped isn’t exactly the start to a happy relationship. They decide that it would be better to escape, and thus begins a complex race through a puzzle-rigged underground facility.
The narrative here makes a big ask of its readers: people will get over being kidnapped if faced with a sufficiently intriguing challenge. If you let yourself suspend your disbelief on this (or perhaps you agree with it), then you will be rewarded with a frenetic adventure with intelligent protagonists. The conclusion sets up the series for an extended run, and I hope that in later volumes we spend more time getting to know the characters and seeing how they interact.
All things considered, this was a really fun start to what promises to be an exciting series. Adventure fans, especially historical adventure fans, should strongly consider picking this one up.
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I imagine you noticed that I made a pretty rough edit to the cover above. For those of you curious about what I covered up but wanting to know what it is before you do an image search, that’s entirely fair and I am happy to oblige. Under the black circle is a drawing of the three main characters of Lost Girls by the artist of the book. All three are wearing flowing slips. I didn’t look particularly closely at the cover image when I was reading the book for review, as the publisher’s watermark that is standard practice in review copies blurs out the details, and the cover is not particularly gripping, so I blew past it and straight into the story. What I realized only after I pulled up the un-watermarked image at full size is that the centrally-placed character’s slip is mostly transparent around her breasts.
I am staunchly against censorship, but there are two important factors that led me to covering up that part of the image. The first is that, while GeekDad isn’t explicitly a kid’s site, we try to keep it relatively kid-friendly. Think PG-13. Now, I will sit right up against that line sometimes, because that’s the nature of covering content that I think will appeal to parents as well as kids. But I work pretty diligently to not cross that line and muddy the intentions of our site.
The other reason, which ties directly into my review, is that, following reading about two-thirds of Lost Girls, I have reason to believe that the character whose breasts are basically exposed on the cover of Lost Girls is likely underage. This troubles me.
This book is generally sold as a narrative that uses the experiences of Wendy (of Peter Pan), Alice (of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), and Dorothy (of The Wizard of Oz) to explore female sexuality and erotic awakening. This generally seemed like a great thing to me, as I believe that the suppression of healthy female sexuality is one of the great crimes of our society.
Lost Girls was not that. It was, in fact, more problematic than what it seemed to set out to counter. The book is full of the explicit rape and sexual assault of minors, the rape and sexual assault of adults, incest, and bestiality. Beyond that, Lost Girls seemed to normalize these acts, making them simply a part of a person’s sexual history, rather than an event that could lead to lifelong trauma.
I couldn’t finish this book. I flipped through some later sections to see if things changed, which was when I encountered the bestiality. That was the answer to my hope for things changing. Lost Girls forgets to have a story, and instead is scene after scene of sex, consensual or otherwise, frequently including explicit, graphic depictions of minors.
This entire review is one big CONTENT NOTE. I can’t say this strongly enough: Avoid Lost Girls. The messages it sends are deeply problematic, and the scenes it shows are deeply disturbing. If I wasn’t trying to get through it for this review, I would have quit much sooner. I do not know how else to tell you this, but avoid this title. Don’t let your curiosity get the better of you. It isn’t revelatory or eye-opening or “edgy.” It’s rape fantasy with kids.
The Veil, Part 1: Vile
Writer: El Torres
Artist: Gabriel Hernandez
Publisher: Europe Comics on behalf of Dibbuks Ediciones
Purchase: Digital Only
First things first: The first part of The Veil is short. My review copy, including covers and everything, clocks in at 32 pages, making the actual story pages pretty close to a single issue in length. I’ve included it here because it is being distributed alongside the rest of Europe Comics’ line, which is typically short graphic novel length (comics tend to not be distributed in continental Europe in the same single-issue manner that they are in the United States). Keep that in mind as you consider purchasing.
What The Veil lacks in length, it makes up for in story. El Torres is a deft hand, plotting a tale of a private investigator who solves murders through speaking to the spirits of the murdered. Gabriel Hernandez’s art is the scratchy-creepy style that is becoming more popular in supernatural horror comics, yet his is also one of the more clear and coherent efforts I have seen in this style, really helping to propel the story forward.
The story quickly shifts from professional to personal, as Chris (the PI) comes into an inheritance in the form of a house. She heads out of the city to claim the house, and begins to encounter her past in a way she had hoped to avoid.
Overall, I really enjoyed the first part of The Veil. It is well plotted and well illustrated. I wish that there had been a little more story in this volume, as it currently feels like more than a single issue but not quite a full volume. Happily, the second part of The Veil is available, so I can get back to it soon. I have a feeling that this is a story that will benefit from some binge reading.
Little Miss Cheery
Artist: Benoît Springer
Translator: Edward Gauvin
Publisher: Europe Comics on behalf of Dupuis
Purchase: Digital Only
If you ever see a book with an ostrich holding an eyeball by the detached optic nerve on the cover of a book, you probably know you are in for a weird story. That said, weird stories are up my alley, so when I was confronted with a book with an ostrich holding an eyeball by the detached optic nerve on the cover, I thought, sure, let’s do this thing.
Pep runs an ostrich farm. He doesn’t love it, but it’s work. His wife, on the other hand, he does hate, in part because he really enjoys sleeping with his wife’s daughter, which is a clear demonstration of his upstanding moral character. Pep, with some convincing by his paramour, murders his wife, dumps her down a well, and returns home, only to see his wife cheerfully working in the kitchen. So he tries again. And again. Something is clearly wrong on the ostrich farm, and Pep’s quasi-incestuous affair is at stake.
If anyone deserves the recurring hauntings of his seemingly unkillable wife, it is Pep. As far as protagonists go, he is absolutely overflowing with terrible behavior – note the sleeping with his wife’s daughter and multiple murders of his wife. So watching things go terribly wrong for him is enjoyable. The ostriches add a weird quirk that seems to work here, as well.
Little Miss Cheery isn’t at the top of my list of bizarre crime stories, but it really wasn’t as totally bogus as I feared. If Pep was a little more redeemable, then I think I would have connected with this title more, but when it comes to bizarre recompense, Little Miss Cheery fits the bill.
CONTENT NOTE: Little Miss Cheery contains graphic murder scenes and some nudity. While it all fits the story, tone, and atmosphere of this volume, I would not suggest Little Miss Cheery for younger readers. Keep this in mind as you consider grabbing this title.
Robotech, Volume 2: Bye-Bye Mars
Writers: Brian Wood & Simon Furman
Artist: Marco Turini
Publisher: Titan Comics
Contains: Robotech #5-8
The original Robotech comics are the fun, fast-paced space opera I never knew I was missing until I began Graphic Novel Weekly. The first volume of the new series was ok, yet I felt it fell short of the strength of its predecessor. Would volume two hold up? Spoilers for volume one are found in the recap below.
Following the shocking twist of the previous volume, readers discover that Captain Gloval is dead. Somehow, the crew of the SDF-1 must manage to survive constant Zentraedi attacks while trying to make their way to Mars to resupply, all while under the lead of a new captain and with a top fighter pilot out of commission. And of course, with all this going on, the civilians living of the SDF-1 being a new talent show being broadcast across the city inside the ship.
Wood is doing the plotting here, while Furman is doing the scripts, and the difference between the two volumes shows. Furman, whose work I am most familiar with from his long time with Transformers, has mastered the high-drama space war epic, and his deft hand on scripting duty elevates this series considerably. Wood brings some major shifts to the plot, and shows that this is a very different Robotech. If the first volume was a bit tepid, this second volume gives this series a reason for existence.
The second volume of Robotech is wonderful. As with the first, it ends on a massive plot twist cliffhanger, and will draw you in for the third collection. Fans of high-action space opera with strong characterization are encouraged to give this series a read!
PREVIEW PAGES: Robotech, Volume 2: Bye-Bye Mars
Luke Forney and/or GeekDad received copies of each of the graphic novels included in this list for review purposes. If you are reading this article anywhere other than on GeekDad or GeekMom, then you are reading a copy not authorized by the author. Please check out other Graphic Novel Weekly articles at www.geekdad.com