NEW IMAGE GNS
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Image Comics
Reviewed by Marc Mason
So I’m doing my best to get through my backlog- if you don’t know, graduate school keeps you kinda busy- and I thought it would be a good time to dive into the stack of recent trades and graphic novels from the folks at Image. Here we go…
UNDYING LOVE was one of the rare books in recent months that I found deeply satisfying on an issue-to-issue basis, so I have nothing but praise and excitement for the first collected edition. Daniel Freedman and Tomm Coker work together on the writing end, with Coker handling the art, and what readers get is a vampire story that actually feels fresh, exciting, and vital. John Sargent has gone on the run from the military after rescuing a woman who was to be sold as a sex slave. The kicker is that she’s a vampire, and as the two fall in love, it becomes abundantly clear that they will have to dive into her past and free her from the man who “turned” her in order for them to finally be together. This means a trip to Hong Kong and a shitload of violence. The story is starkly told, just enough layers to give it some meat, and keeps the dialogue to a minimum. That allows Coker to do what he does best, which is draw like one of the best artists in comics, which he has been for a long time. Sick of sparkly vampires and want to get back to sex and gore? UNDYING LOVE is for you.
I was dubious about MORIARTY when it was first announced, but writer Daniel Corey and artist Anthony Diecidue delivered a strong first issue and managed to keep the story interesting through the end. Now collected in one volume, I think it holds together even a bit better. The story finds the legendary Holmes protagonist twenty years after he caused Sherlock’s death, a man who is now rather bored. He would never admit it, but he misses Holmes, because without a good opponent he is somewhat lost. However, opportunity comes knocking in the form of a missing professor, a strange device, and a criminal mastermind who may be better than Moriarty ever was. Suddenly the old bastard is alive again. There’s a lot to appreciate here; Corey does a slick job with the story and in giving it a Doyle-esque flavor, and Diecidue’s art is different than anything else on the shelves right now. The book also looks more comfortable in its period setting that Guy Richie’s films do. I don’t know that it will be to everyone’s taste, but there’s definitely an audience for this, and more of it in the future.
Speaking of artistically unique books… Kody Chamberlain’s SWEETS gets collected, and you simply need to have it. In the waning days before Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, a serial killer is murdering his way through town, leaving only praline crumbs in his wake. Forced back early from bereavement leave, Detective Delatte must jump onto the case quickly before any hoping of catching the perp is lost in the storm. There’s literally nothing to like here. The story and characters are strong, and Chamberlain’s ability to make you “feel” New Orleans is impressive. The dialogue is spare and never descends into poetry. His art is detailed, lush, and beautiful. Chamberlain even does some nifty work in shifting styles for flashbacks. Even the colors are a knockout. Recommending this book is the easiest thing I can do this week.
Over on the original graphic novel side of things we have LOVESTRUCK from writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Kevin Mellon. A cynical young photographer named Kalli Monroe finds herself recruited by a man claiming to be Cupid himself. Her job? To follow his direction and use love to manipulate the stock market, music industry, politics… life itself. Together with her team, she does just that, her snarky attitude about love making her perfect for the job. But as she gets deeper and deeper into the organization, Kalli begins to be manipulated by other forces that want something different from her. Love? Who has time to think about love when the real question is one of destiny? I struggled to get into LOVESTRUCK at first, as the characters were so off-putting. But as I stuck with it, they grew on me, particularly Kalli, and I got invested in her story. One of the most universal things we all share is a vacillating perspective on love, and Hopeless’ story plays with this really well. He also peels away some layers on the characters to make them far more interesting. The art from Mellon is sharp and appealing, and he does some very interesting things with the storytelling and layouts. Surprising stuff.
Finally we come to MORNING GLORIES VOL.2 from writer Nick Spencer and artist Joe Eisma. From the beginning I’ve been one of the few real dissenters on this book, and I remain firmly in that camp after reading through this trade. The concept behind MORNING GLORIES- that these kids are trapped in a bizarre boarding school from which they cannot escape has stretched my suspension of disbelief pretty thin from the very start- and it only gets worse here. The final issue in this volume actually tries to offer up something of an explanation for why the kids can’t escape, and it’s so ludicrous that I couldn’t believe it. The issues preceding too individual looks at the “stars” of the book- the five lead students, and while they were executed well, the characters are completely uninteresting. That two of them are murderers stretches the book’s credibility further. Really, much of what is here feels like shock done strictly for shock value- like it’s a contest to prove how edgy the book can be. I’ve absolutely loved earlier work by Spencer (EXISTENCE) and Eisma (A DUMMY’S GUIDE TO DANGER) but this just leaves me cold. Though its Eisner nom this year suggests I’m in the minority there.