If you thought last week was huge, you better hold on tight because this week we are going even BIGGER! Fourteen new titles can be found below. This week runs the gamut, hitting a number of different genres, creators, and publishers. New this week, click on any of the titles on the list below and it will take you directly to the section of this column that contains the review for that title. Talk about living in the future! This week also introduces an exciting new feature: Quick Hits! Find out more here!
Anyway, this week I’ll be going over:
- Mera: Tidebreaker – Featured in Quick Hits!
- Charlie’s Angels, Volume 1: The Devil You Know – Featured in Quick Hits!
- Noir – Featured in Quick Hits!
- Polar: Came From the Cold – Featured in Quick Hits!
- The Art of Dying – Featured in Quick Hits!
- Rick Veitch’s The One – Featured in Quick Hits!
- Faith: Dreamside – Featured in Quick Hits!
- Superman, Volume 1: The Unity Saga – Phantom Earth – Featured in Quick Hits!
- Her Infernal Descent, Volume 1: Contrapasso – Featured in Quick Hits!
- The Campbells, Volume 1: Inferno
- Giselle & Beatrice – Featured in Quick Hits!
- Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini
- Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer: The Night I Died
And if that doesn’t sate the beast, check out all of the previous Graphic Novel Weekly columns here while you wait for next week’s exciting update! It’s a bonanza! Now let’s get to those reviews!
Writer: Clay McLeod Chapman
Artist: Jey Levang
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Contains: Lazaretto #1-5
To some degree, I enjoy an epidemic or bio-apocalypse story, a la Outbreak. What I absolutely love, though, are stories with closed environments, where the drama heightens and there is no means of escape. It could be a space station or a submarine, that enclosed setting adds a layer of pressure that cranks everything up a notch. I love it. Lazaretto has it. So here we are.
Coinciding with move-in day at Yersin University is the rise of canine influenza, a deadly new strain of illness that is highly contagious and has horrifying impacts on health and behavior. When a student moves in who is infected, it leads to a full-on quarantine as the entire university becomes a hotbed of illness. But as the quarantine drags on and the illness presents even more troubling symptoms, chaos begins to reign as the dorms become a more horrific Lord of the Flies. Can two new freshman who have known each other less than a day possibly survive the canine flu, the other people in quarantine, and their own secrets?
Lazaretto is a beast. It starts out feeling like an epidemic thriller, and slowly grows into an LSD trip straight into disturbing body horror. This story is well-written, building suspense and horror effectively throughout. I read a lot of horror in all mediums, including comics, and this was one of the very few to get a cringe out of me, although it did hit on one of my few squeamish spots to do so.
One of the weaknesses of Lazaretto is that it doesn’t totally seem to know what genre it wants to be, and shifts multiple times as mentioned above. This inconsistency makes it difficult to settle into the plot at times, because the feel changes in a way that is distracting. However, outside of those rough edges, Lazaretto is a nasty little horror story that should leave fans of body horror happy.
CONTENT NOTE: There is some significant gore in Lazaretto. Many readers’ mileage varies with gore, so please keep that in mind as you consider reading this. Also, given the level of gore, this is likely not the beast book for younger readers.
The Campbells, Volume 1: Inferno
Writer: Jose Luis Munuera
Artist: Jose Luis Munuera
Publisher: Europe Comics on behalf of Dupuis
I’m normally not much of a pirate guy. That trend in pop culture never sunk its teeth into my interests. However, I do like fun, light-hearted adventures, and The Campbells promised that, so I dove into it with an open mind.
Campbell was a legendary pirate until his wife was murdered. After that, he seemed to disappear for years. Just as other pirates are beginning to assume he has died, he explodes back onto the scene with a surprising crew: his two young daughters.
The first volume of The Campbells ended up being a lot of fun. It was full of light humor and action, and never takes itself particularly seriously. It is well written, and takes its time slowly revealing more of the personal backstory of the family as more and more drama arises on the pirate side of things.
In a lot of ways, The Campbells is friendly for younger readers, so much so that it is listed as all-ages. However, there is a just enough minor sexual jokes at the beginning that it would be worth it for parents to review this before handing it off to their kids. Examples include breast-shaped rocks being used as a landmark, with a pin-up model used by a pirate as a map. It is goofy, rather than erotic, but might be outside of what some parents want their kids to read.
Fans of lighthearted action, especially of the pirate variety, are encouraged to give the first volume of The Campbells a try.
Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini
Writer: Cynthia von Buhler
Artist: Cynthia von Buhler
Publisher: Hard Case Crime (Titan Comics)
Contains: Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #1-4
I don’t know a ton about Harry Houdini, as I’m not much of a history of magic sort of person, but the idea that there is some complex conspiracy involving Houdini, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Spiritualism movement was pretty intriguing. Hard Case Crime hasn’t let me down yet, either, which was enough to give this book a try.
Minky Woodcock is the daughter of a private investigator who wants to become a PI herself but is discouraged by her father, who doesn’t think that’s the right type of job for a woman. However, when Arthur Conan Doyle stops by wanting someone to take on his case immediately, Minky decides it’s time to take her fate into her own hands and pursues the case. She is suddenly wrapped up in a war between Spiritualists who believe in speaking to the dead and séances, and Harry Houdini, out to prove Spiritualism to be a fraud. Minky becomes a part of Houdini’s show, and suddenly has a very personal stake in her case.
Minky Woodcock is a fascinating story that weaves together historical fact into a dynamic, suspenseful crime drama. I didn’t anticipate enjoying it as much as I did, but I was quickly drawn into, what seem from an almost one hundred year distance, bizarre practices being accepted across cultures. Seeing historical icons like Conan Doyle wrapped up in the performance of séances performed by a naked woman who, according to historical records, purported to exude a ghostly hand from her vagina, is a startling new lens with which to view these historical figures.
Minky Woodcock is less hardboiled crime than what I am used to from Hard Case Crime. It sits more along the lines of a historical drama. However, it is a wonderful story that rapidly draws readers in. I highly recommend Minky Woodcock to fans of historical esoterica and period dramas.
CONTENT NOTE: In case the cover wasn’t a clue, Minky Woodcock contains a fair bit of nudity. This story is likely not best for younger readers.
Check out preview pages here!
***For those interested in Minky Woodcock, also be sure to check out the fantastic interview with the creators behind the series with GeekDad’s Ricardo Rebelo here!***
Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer: The Night I Died
Writer: Max Allan Collins
Based on the Mike Hammer series created by: Mickey Spillane
Artist: Marcelo Salaza & Marcio Freire
Publisher: Hard Case Crime (Titan Comics)
Contains: Mike Hammer #1-4, prose short stories “Trouble…Come and Get It!” and “Killer’s Return”
Talk about a deep dive into Hard Case Crime this week! I’ve read only a couple of Mickey Spillane’s short stories, none of them featuring Mike Hammer, so I am a novice when it comes to Spillane’s most famous detective. However, I’ve read a number of Max Allan Collins’ comics and novels, and they’ve all been exceptional. It was time to give this one a go.
Mike Hammer is a stereotypical tough guy. His body can take a beating that would put all other men in hospital beds, and he’s still put together enough afterwards to sleep with his clients. All in a days work. But when a meeting with a client leads to the fiery wreckage of a chase car, Hammer is going to need to pull out all the stops and show the criminal underworld just how tough he really is.
Mike Hammer is about as hardboiled as crime fiction can get. He’s gritty, grim, semi-nihilistic, and unapologetic about violence and murder. He’s one rough dude. He’s also misogynistic, so you’ll want to prepare yourself for that before you begin reading.
The Night I Died is a lot of fun. Collins does a masterful job of capturing the feel of crime fiction from a much earlier time, and it is very easy to sink into the easy cadence of the story and the flow of Hammer’s gruff voice. The plot has plenty of twists and turns, and lots of set pieces to show us how tough Hammer is. Not in a bad way, but in an action movie way.
The Night I Died ticks all of the boxes when it comes to being a solid crime noir tale. It’s dark, it’s gritty, and I loved it. Fans of the genre owe it to themselves to give this one a look.
The included short stories are a nice touch. They are from an upcoming collection of stories by Spillane that were originally published in Golden Age comics. The stories do not feature Mike Hammer, and aren’t particularly strong, but it was fun to keep that feeling of being sucked into old crime stories alive a little longer.
CONTENT NOTE: The Night I Died does deal with some mature themes, and likely isn’t a great choice for younger readers.
Check out preview pages here!
Welcome to Quick Hits! This is where you can find rapid-fire reviews of titles that came through the review cycle but didn’t excite enough to earn a full-fledged review. Look for quick reviews below to learn more about each. Not all of these titles were bad (far from it, in fact), but they didn’t quite reach an A grade, either. Let me know what you think about quick hits, and if it’s popular, I will bring it back in future weeks!
Writer: Danielle Paige
Artist: Stephen Byrne
Publisher: DC INK (DC Comics)
For those of you who come back week after week to check out the column (Yes, I’m talking about you, and you are amazing!), you know that a recurrent theme here is that I’m always on the lookout for strong new content that I can pass along to my stepdaughter. Based on her preferences, this means young reader-friendly adventure stories. If the main character is a badass woman, all the better. So, I gave Mera: Tidebreaker a run through. Overall, this isn’t a bad story, and I think if you go into it with the right expectations, you might enjoy it more than I did. Based on the press releases, I was anticipating a young woman battling against a society that wants to dictate her life, who must set out on an epic adventure to forge her own destiny. All of which is true. But there is also a prominent plot point of falling in love with pre-Aquaman Aquaman at first sight. It isn’t wrong to have a romance title in comics. In fact, I think comics needs far more of them! But that wasn’t what I was sold, and seeing the potential for this to be a great coming-of-age, defying-systemic-oppression story, having it turn into a light teenage romance was a bit of a buzzkill.
Charlie’s Angels, Volume 1: The Devil You Know
Writer: John Layman
Artist: Joe Eisma
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Contains: Charlie’s Angels #1-5
This new series embraces the show and the era fully, in good ways. The story is full outdated fashion and era-slang, along with a fun, light atmosphere. Layman manages to balance the fun and adventure pretty well, although the push to keep it light does frequently undercut the drama. This is a light, upbeat adventure story without gravitas. A fun read to fit between your main titles, look for this at the library rather than the bookstore.
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Writer: Łukasz Bogacz & Wojciech Stefaniec
Artist: Wojciech Stefaniec
Publisher: Europe Comics on behalf of Timof
I’ve been rolling through a bunch of noir crime stories lately, and I figured a book called Noir would be a perfect fit for that. Noir ended up being pretty mediocre, unfortunately. Following a family full of secrets and an ongoing murder investigation, the story bounces around without ever feeling sufficiently surprising or gritty. Noir was more noir-lite than anything else, and as far as crime graphic fiction goes, other titles recently reviewed in Graphic Novel Weekly have been much stronger.
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Polar: Came From the Cold
Writer: Victor Santos
Artist: Victor Santos
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Contains: Polar – Season 1
It was interesting to see how this story played out, given that it began life as a textless web comic. The art is particularly expressive, likely in part because it was originally the sole vehicle for story progression. The dialogue isn’t bad, but I wonder if Polar might have been stronger without it. The art is particularly strong when it shows austere, bleak expanses, uses bold colors, and revels in gritty yet stylized violence, and it didn’t need dialogue for that. Overall, Polar was an enjoyable read, without doubt, but it is the art that will stick in your mind, not the whole story.
The Art of Dying
Artist: Philippe Berthet
Translator: Matt Madden
Publisher: Europe Comics on behalf of Dargaud Benelux
The Art of Dying is another crime title in a week full of them. Perhaps if it hadn’t had such strong competition, it would have stood out, but instead it was ever so close but not quite. There were some great set pieces, especially as one man tears apart a crime empire, but there were also plot elements that seemed too abrupt or too convenient, and an ex-wife who only appeared to advance the plot. This is not a bad title, and the price is very affordable, but when balanced against some of the strong competition, it was just short of standing out as a contender.
Her Infernal Descent, Volume 1: Contrapasso
Writers: Lonnie Nadler & Zac Thompson
Artists: Kyle Charles, Eoin Marron
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Contains: Her Infernal Descent #1-5
There was a lot of quirkiness to this title that was enjoyable, but it sometimes lost itself in too much dialogue. This is a book that takes a long time to get anywhere, then rushes through an entire circle of Hell in one Family Circus-style full-page splash. Lots of thought went into this volume, and there was plenty of potential, but overall it didn’t live up to the opportunity. Also, despite being labelled as a first volume, this is a complete, stand-alone story. Curious.
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: MJ Kim
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Contains: Faith: Dreamside #1-4
I really enjoyed the original Harbingers series from Valiant in the ‘90s, and I enjoyed the newer one almost as well. I fell off a little bit as things split up, and thought I would dive back in here. Overall, I find I like the team dynamic more than I like the individual characters. This story presents itself as a quirky drama, and I love how the creators neither body shame nor exploit Faith’s body, but I didn’t find myself deeply drawn into the plot. It was light and easy, and not a terrible way to pass by an afternoon, but overall pretty unmemorable.
Superman, Volume 1: The Unity Saga – Phantom Earth
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ivan Reis
Publisher: DC Comics
Contains: Superman #1-6
I was curious to see how Brian Michael Bendis’ transition to DC Comics would go. I wouldn’t necessarily say I am a huge fan, but I think of solo titles he does do mostly enjoyable work. I found this volume to be pretty mediocre, and far from Bendis’ best. Superman flies around and beats up bad guys and lots of very improbable things happen. Whenever the root cause of the entire planet being shunted into the Phantom Zone is seemingly introduced as an aside, there might be problems with the plot.
Check out preview pages here!
Giselle & Beatrice
Writer: Benoît Feroumont
Artist: Benoît Feroumont
Translator: Allison M. Charette
Publisher: Europe Comics on behalf of Dupuis
This staggeringly problematic title is basically a book-length rape fantasy with a dash of racism. Using dark magic learned on a trip to Africa, a woman changes her boss into a woman after her continues to sexually harass her. She then makes him magically unable to escape, destroys his previous life, and rapes him at least once a day. Eventually, the daily rapes help the victim realize that he actually loves his rapist. While I’m very strongly against sexual harassment, enslavement and rape are also very wrong, and presenting them in a way that results in a rape-leads-to-love ideology is disturbing. The fact that Giselle & Beatrice bills itself as a romantic comedy speaks to a reality of Western rape culture that leaves me shocked. I strongly recommend avoiding this title.
Rick Veitch’s The One
Writer: Rick Veitch
Artist: Rick Veitch
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Contains: The One #1-6
Superheroes become the next stage of the Cold War arms race in Rick Veitch’s The One. While the idea isn’t bad, this title feels like it is very firmly anchored in the era it came out. Coming to it fresh today as someone who was born at the close of the Cold War, this title felt dry, tedious, heavy-handed, and out of touch with contemporary political ideologies. I had hoped for more from someone whose work I so highly valued from his run on Swamp Thing.
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