Graphic Novel Weekly 5/16/19: More Reviews! More Fun!

16-05-2019 02:05

This week, I have more new reviews coming your way! Summer seems to bring a glut of exciting new titles each year, and 2019 is no different. Graphic Novel Weekly will be bring as many exciting new titles your way as possible. Keep your eyes peeled all summer for exciting new content! This week, I’ll be looking at:

  • Emanon, Volume 1: Memories of Emanon
  • The Wrong Earth, Volume 1
  • Hibakusha
  • Alcyon, Volume 1: Harmony’s Necklace
  • Dark Rage
  • Six Days: The Incredible Story of D-Day’s Lost Chapter
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Silent Option
  • Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale
  • Red Sonja/Tarzan
  • Yuri Bear Storm, Volume 2 – Quick Hits!
  • Mata Hari – Quick Hits!

Some of the older titles get featured in Quick Hits!, while all of the new titles receive full reviews, so buckle up – This is a big week of content! Keep scrolling down for the reviews. As always, you can find all of the previous (and future!) Graphic Novel Weekly columns right here!

Coming Next Week

Next week, I’ll have even more reviews for you! I’m planning to feature titles from DC, Dark Horse, Europe Comics, BOOM!, Lion Forge, Manga Classics, and Titan. I’ll see you then!
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Emanon, Volume 1: Memories of Emanon


Writer: Shinji Kajio
Based on the Short Story: “Memories of Emanon”
Short Story by: Shinji Kajio
Artist: Kenji Tsuruta
Translator: Dana Lewis
Publisher: Dark Horse Manga (Dark Horse)
Purchase: Digital – Physical

I’m always on the lookout for thoughtful, high concept comics. Ones with heady ideas and deft enough writing to tie the complex thoughts into a gripping story. That’s part of what I love about science fiction, bringing crazy ideas to a narrative. Emanon promises just that.

A young man is on a long ferry ride home when he encounters a mysterious young woman who won’t tell him her name. Going by Emanon (hint: no name backwards), she promises to share her story, telling the man about her complicated existence. She tells him she has memories going back billions of years, to the very beginning of single-cell life on Earth. She remembers everything. But is she telling the truth, or just telling a story to pass the time?

The first volume of Emanon, based on the short story “Memories of Emanon” by Shinji Kajio, delivers on the promise of high-concept fiction. I was fascinated throughout as I heard more and more of Emanon’s story, and when the timeframe jumps ahead towards the end, the payoff was satisfactory and leaves the story open for more.

The plotting of this was tight and direct, giving Emanon’s story within the main plot space without lose track of the main plot. The art here is also quite nicely done, giving emotive facial expression and crisp lines. Together, writing and art telling a wonderful story that will stick with me. I am ecstatic for the release of the second volume. If you are a fan of strong idea-driven science fiction with great character development, give this title a try.

CONTENT NOTE: There is some non-sexual nudity in this volume as part of Emanon’s story of her life throughout the history of life on Earth. That, along with some swearing, leads me to think that this is a volume that should be reviewed by parents before being handed to younger readers.

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The Wrong Earth, Volume 1


Writer: Tom Peyer, Paul Constant (back-up stories)
Penciler: Jamal Igle, Various (back-up stories)
Inker: Juan Castro, Various (back-up stories)
Publisher: AHOY Comics
Purchase: Digital – Physical

I’m always on the lookout for exciting new publishers, and I was fortunate enough to come across AHOY Comics. They publish in “seasons,” similar to Marvel’s constant renumbering and restructuring, but with AHOY it is upfront, honest, and intentional, so it seems to work much better. Intrigued, I dove into one of their first series, The Wrong Earth.

Dragonflyman and his young partner Stinger fight crime in pleasant city seemingly ripped from ‘50s Americana. Meanwhile, in the same city in a different universe, Dragonfly fights crime with brutal violence in the grim and gritty night. Yet, when villain Number One’s plot goes awry at the same time on both Earths, Dragonflyman and Dragonfly find themselves in each other’s cities, trying to learn how to adapt. But can a naïve crime fighter with rose-tinted glass survive steroid-pumping, baseball bat-carrying thugs? And can pleasant Fortune City survive a violent serial killer and a new hero who is almost as dark?

While I wouldn’t say that the idea of having a hero removed from a world of one extreme (grim & gritty vs. pleasant sunshine), it certainly isn’t brand new, either. What sets The Wrong Earth apart is what it chooses to do with this idea. By presenting both versions of the out-of-place story at once, it examines both how an individual can impact the broader culture, as well as how the structures of society influence the individuals. The Wrong Earth points out all the problems with society as it is presented in both Golden Age comics and the dark grit of the ‘90s, while also embracing what made them so exciting and popular.

This first volume of The Wrong Earth is fast paced, with lots of action, and it has a lot of thought going into it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m quite excited for it to return for a second volume. Fans of super hero comics with a foundation of social commentary (I’m thinking Hickman, Brubaker, etc.) should definitely consider picking this up.

CONTENT NOTE: There is some blood and gore in this title, so parents should review this one before letting younger readers give it a go.

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Hibakusha


Writer: Thilde Barboni
Based on the Short Story: “Hiroshima, fin de transmission”
Short Story by: Thilde Barboni
Artist: Olivier Cinna
Translator: Edward Gauvin
Publisher: Europe Comics, on behalf of Dupuis
Purchase: Digital

Sometimes I pick up a new title because the storyline sounds fascinating, or its part of a series that I really enjoy. Other times, it is because I’m a fan of one of the creators attached to the title. On rare occasions, though, I will select a book solely because of the cover. Hibakusha is one of those times. I didn’t need to know what the storyline was, I was entranced by the lines and especially by the colors, the large white spaces that create such a nice contrast to the warm red and yellows. I wish all books had covers that did such a wonderful job of expressing the emotions contained within.

Ludwig is a Germany working for the Nazis in Japan as a translator. While there, he meets a Japanese woman and begins to fall in love, yet his timing couldn’t be worse. With the dropping of the atomic bombs on the horizon, and fate pulling them apart, can their fleeting love last?

Hibakusha apparently is a Japanese word for the survivors of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This takes on a dual meaning through the text, which I won’t get into too deeply here for fear of spoiling details of the story. Suffice it to say that this story is well thought out and intricate, while also being quite melancholic and affecting. I thoroughly enjoyed this take on World War II historical fiction with a set of character perspectives not seen as commonly in American fiction. The common humanity and the great cost of World War II are on display here, and used effectively.

Fans of historical fiction set during World War II, or interested in emotional romantic dramas, should strongly consider giving Hibakusha a read. I strongly recommend it.

CONTENT NOTE: This book involves mature relationships, World War II, and the dropping of atomic bombs, all in the name of emotional drama and historical accuracy. Parents should review this title before handing it to younger readers.

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Alcyon, Volume 1: Harmony’s Necklace


Writer: Richard Marazano
Artist: Christophe Ferreira
Translator: Jeremy Melloul
Publisher: Europe Comics, on behalf of Dargaud
Purchase: Digital

There are certain things on covers that are going to always grab my attention. One of those things is giant monsters. This made the first volume of Alcyon an easy choice for me.

Alcyon and Phoebe tend to get in trouble sneaking around the political meetings of ancient Greece, but when they discover that their fathers’ lives are on at risk if they don’t discover a mythological necklace that might not exist, the pair set out on their own to cross Greece and find their fathers’ safety. Joined by Kyrilos of Sparta, the trio must evade monsters and assassins if they are to survive even the first leg of their long journey.

This story was so much fun. The writing deftly presents the seemingly-feuding Alcyon and Phoebe in a way that makes it clear they actually deeply care about each other, and as with any story featuring young adult romantic interests, readers will find it easy to root for them. The art also does a fabulous job of placing the story securely in its era and place, instilling the landscape with sunlight and the nighttime with the terror of the unknown.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume of Alcyon, and wish there was more available to read right now. I can’t wait for the second volume. This is a wonderful adventure, and is also young-reader friendly, with content that would be pretty approachable for middle readers and up. Strongly recommended.

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Dark Rage


Writer: Thierry Smolderen
Artist: Philippe Marcelé
Translators: Sasha Watson & Justin Kelly
Publisher: Humanoids
Purchase: Digital – Physical

I’m a big enough fan of comics that I keep pretty tuned into what is up and coming in the genre, especially here in the United States. That said, I somehow managed to completely miss news of this title until articles about it started popping up on my suggested list. After reading a bit about it, I knew that I needed to give it a read.

In the course of a grocery store robbery, two women watch their families gunned down. As the killers continue their string of robbery-shootings, these women decide the time has come to take matters into their own hands. As they begin to plot their retribution, though, it begins to seem like there is more to these killings than random violence, and the would-be avengers must push deeper and deeper into the murky world of violence to end it all.

If you want a dark noir comic, then Dark Rage is exactly the title you are looking for. This new paperback release from Humanoids contains all three original graphic novels in the trilogy, now in one collection. The art in this is wonderful, feeling very much effective in not just telling the story, but also passing along that brooding that is so much a part of the most effective noir.

The writing is gripping, as well. Smolderen nicely adapts his style to create two dynamic characters, showing us how they grow and evolve as they sink deeper and deeper into a world of violence. The pace is fast when it needs to be, but also doesn’t hesitate to give the characters a chance to breath.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Dark Rage. This title is strongly recommended for fans of crime and noir fiction.

CONTENT NOTE: This title includes a lot of violence and some nudity. This is likely not the best choice for younger readers.

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Six Days: The Incredible Story of D-Day’s Lost Chapter


Writer: Robert Venditti & Kevin Maurer
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Publisher: Vertigo (DC)
Purchase: Digital – Physical

I can’t recall too many dramatizations of actual historical events from World War II in comics. I was really fascinated to see one crop up, especially with the likes of Robert Venditti attached to it. With great hope for the rebirth of the Vertigo imprint and an interest in World War II, I dove into this brand new OGN (original graphic novel).

In preparation for the assault on the beaches of Normandy, American troops were dropped behind enemy lines with the intention of preventing Nazi forces from being able to join up and overwhelm the Allied troops trying to gain a foothold in Nazi-occupied France. Unfortunately, the American planes came under heavier-than-anticipated anti-air fire from the Nazis and got off track. A small group of American paratroopers land outside the small town of Graignes, and must dig in and prepare to fight off the Nazi army that desperately wants to pass through the town on the way to the battlefront.

Six Days is a gripping war story. The chaos and dynamics of war are on full effect here, drawing the reader into the overwhelming whirlwind of combat. Far from glorifying war, Six Days presents it as chaotic fear and reaction followed by waiting. The reader sees heroism in both the American soldiers and French civilians as the war comes to the small village.

The art is mostly strong in this story. Mutti does an excellent job showing both peaceful scenes and the freneticism of battle. One difficulty comes in many of the American troops looking very similar, and needing to pull from the dialogue which is which. Overall, though, the art does a fantastic job of expressing the emotions of the story.

Six Days is highly recommended for fans of World War II history and war stories. This is not a happy chapter of history, but it is a powerful one, and I hope this graphic novel finds a large audience.

CONTENT NOTE: Given that this is about war, there is violence and death aplenty. Parents should consider reviewing this title before handing it to younger readers.

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G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Silent Option


Writer: Larry Hama, Ryan Ferrier (back-up story)
Pencillers: Netho Diaz, Kenneth Loh (back-up story)
Inkers: Alisson Rodrigues, Jagdish Kumar, Kenneth Loh (back-up story)
Publisher: IDW
Purchase: Digital – Physical

For those of you that also follow Comic Book Corner (if you don’t, you should!), you might recall my reviews of the first few issues of this series. When I switched over from single issues to exclusively reading trades, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Silent Option was almost, but not quite, done. I was thrilled to get the chance to dive back in and finish this mini-series, now out in a collected edition.

When new G.I. Joe Agent Helix disappears, it is up to the Joes to track her down. Luckily, Snake Eyes and company are at the ready. What starts as a straightforward missing persons case becomes everything but, as Helix descends on a human trafficking ring that she is all too familiar with.

While Silent Option starts off a little clumsily, it really gets rolling around the second issue and doesn’t slow down from there. Larry Hama is the classic G.I. Joe writer for a reason. With non-stop action and excitement, these series blast to its conclusion. While this isn’t the deepest character exploration out there, it is a fun story that it is easy to sink into. The art does a fantastic job of capturing the fluid, always moving combat, and is effective at storytelling.

The back-up story is where we learn about Agent Helix’s background, and her connection to the original Snake Eyes. Loh’s art is effective and unique, and the writing is crisp and gives us the characterization not found as significantly in the main story.

This is a must for fans of the main G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero series, and is a good selection for fans of action comics with a strong military bent.

CONTENT NOTE: There is a fair bit of violence and blood here. This might be a better choice for middle readers and up.
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Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale


Writer: Lauren Myracle
Artist: Isaac Goodhart
Publisher: DC INK (DC)
Purchase: Digital – Physical

I first encountered DC INK with Mera: Tidebreaker, a pretty standard fantasy teen romance. I’m also on the lookout for strong new works by and for women readers, and that are young reader friendly, so I decided to return to DC INK and check out Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale. This was an interesting read, although I also found myself confused on who it was intended for.

Selina Kyle is stuck watching her mom bounce through different boyfriends, before she finally ends up with one who is the worst of the bunch. After a final act of abuse from her mom’s boyfriend, Selina runs away. Living on the street, she struggles to balance the relationships she made in high school with her new life and her created family of acrobatic thieves, let alone the remnants of the traumas she experienced when she was living with her mom.

This book is fantastic, but first I want to delve into the trick of uncovering its intended audience. DC INK, to my understanding, is generally aimed at teens. Mera: Tidebreaker was a safe entry for that demographic, and its safeness is what impacted its ability, to an extent. Under the Moon might be taking the other extreme. It contains far more difficult situations and f bombs than any DC comic not labelled as being for mature readers. In a lot of ways, I worry that the language used will be a sticking point that will keep this out of the hands of readers.

Under the Moon feels like a book that young women readers need but parents of young women readers will not want them to read. There is a lot of power here, and frank discussions of cutting, abuse, and living with an abuser. Those are all heavy topics, and ones that need to be in the public discussion much more than they are. I hope that Under the Moon does just that, and gets people to take these important health issues seriously.

The story itself is gripping and well-paced. Myracle has made an excellent transition from novelist to comic writer. I loved the art, as well. The pastel, mono- or duotone color palates that DC is using in their DC INK line may not appeal to everyone, but they are surprisingly effective, streamlining the focus and stripping away distraction.

I really enjoyed Under the Moon, and I think that it could be a very important book for a number of readers. I just hope that it doesn’t inadvertently keep itself out of the hands of those readers.
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Red Sonja/Tarzan


Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Walter Geovani
Publisher: Dynamite
Purchase: Digital – Physical

Red Sonja is a fascinating character concept to me. She combines strong female warrior with an outfit that generally screams sexual objectification. Red Sonja has been through some ups and downs across her time in comics, especially during her tenure at Dynamite, but seeing Gail Simone on the cover definitely drew my attention. Combining Red Sonja with Tarzan seemed to set things up to be a lot of fun, so I dove in with tentative hope.

Red Sonja walks into a small village beaten and without supplies. She speaks to The Traveler, saying she needs to go back to right a wrong. Meanwhile, Tarzan’s friend is losing his land to a rich hunter named Eson Duul, and Tarzan creates a legal block against Eson. Doing this, Tarzan discovers that Eson is a dangerous foe, and Tarzan’s family is at risk. Just as Tarzan prepares to track down Eson, he is approached by Red Sonja in Victorian attire, telling him there is more going on than he realizes.

This book is a lot of fun. Red Sonja and Tarzan both feel fully fleshed out, and their characters bounce off of each other nicely. Eson Duul is also a sufficiently evil villain, and while a tad one-dimensional, his underlings provide more depth and interest. Simone’s plotting and dialogue are top-notch here, and the art does a beautiful job of giving even more life to the plot. A number of settings are navigated through this title, and Geovani does a fantastic job switching between them. There are also a number of nods to other works by Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs, which gave this the feel of being created by people who genuinely enjoy the characters, rather than a by-the-numbers crossover mini-series to drum up sales.

I highly recommend this for fans of both characters, as well as fans of adventure comics. This has elements of pulp, as that’s tied to the characters, but Simone’s take on this a little more post-modern pulp, action-adventure that is also aware of gender and culture. I thoroughly enjoyed this from beginning to end.

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Yuri Bear Storm, Volume 2


Writer: Ikunigomakinako
Artist: Akiko Morishima
Translator: Katie McLendon
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
Purchase: Physical

Yuri Bear Storm continues to be the quirky little manga that succeeds despite a ridiculous premise. The universe is made up almost exclusively of bears, or at least some of the characters believe, while others are beginning to push at the possible mental health issues underlying that assumption. Through all this, three young women are trying to figure out relationships and emotions, and keep finding themselves in over their heads. The art is full of energy, the writing is light and fun when there are jokes to be had and serious when the time is right, and the books flies on by. If you are into offbeat fantasy romances that are LGBTQ-friendly, consider grabbing a copy of this. It’s surprisingly cute and fun.

CONTENT NOTE: While there is no full nudity, it gets close, as the three main protagonists are trying to figure out how to be high schoolers and have relationships. Parents should review this before handing it to younger readers.

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Mata Hari


Writer: Emma Beeby
Artist: Ariela Kristantina
Publisher: Berger Books (Dark Horse)
Purchase: Digital – Physical

Mata Hari is a dramatization of Mata Hari, originally Margaretha Zelle, who found herself on trial for prostitution and espionage. Rather wonderfully, that isn’t the most fantastic aspect of Mata Hari’s story. A fascinating historical figure was selected for this biographical-based tale, and the storytelling is done quite nicely. Fans of interpersonal drama, true crime, and historical fiction, especially with a feminist intent, should definitely consider this title.

CONTENT NOTE: Mata Hari contains nudity and sexual content in flashbacks, as that was a big part of the historical Mata Hari’s trial. This is likely not the best selection for younger readers.

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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

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