GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUNDUP

GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUNDUP
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Various


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Taking a look at four new books from the last couple of months…

There’s a lot to like about THE JOYNERS IN 3D (Archaia/Boom) by writer R.J. Ryan and artist David Marquez. Set about fifty years in the future, George Joyner is the world’s finest creator of new technology, and he has a new breakthrough ready to happen that will change the world again. He also had a family that is falling apart and a gift for philandering. That second part is, as you might guess, going to bite him in the ass. Ryan creates an interesting group of characters here, the leads well-rounded and multi-layered. Neither George, nor his wife, is entirely good or bad and each one bears part of the blame for the disintegration of their union. Marquez’ art is equally adept with the character stuff as it is in designing the future milieu, and his storytelling is crisp. What doesn’t quite work here is the gimmick: the 3D. Sure, it’s well done, but there’s no real need for it. This is a quiet story, really, and not a single sequence in the book feels truly enhanced by the 3D experience. I liked the book overall, but I would have liked it a little more not having to wear the glasses.

Writer/artist Danica Novgorodoff, who impressed so much with SLOW STORM, returns with THE UNDERTAKING OF LILY CHEN (First Second), which is the best double-meaning title I’ve seen in recent memory. The story involves “ghost marriages” – an old Chinese tradition that involves marrying the dead so that they may be happy in the afterlife. While this sounds like something that would have only happened a long time ago, there has been a resurgence in the last decade or so. Here, the book follows a young man named Deshi who is sent by his parents to find a female corpse who can be married to his newly deceased brother. Along the journey, he meets Lily Chen, a young woman who wants to leave her rural, sheltered existence behind and live a life of her own, as she attaches herself to him. To Deshi’s hired “matchmaker” (grave robber) the solution is simple: kill Lily and marry her off to the brother. But things are rarely that simple, and they certainly aren’t in this story. Novgorodoff creates a story that fires on all cylinders; her characters are interesting and gain depth as the tale moves forward, she offers up an even-handed look at a culture that could easily be misunderstood or mocked, and the sense of design in her artwork is stunning. The journey does drag in the middle, but it recaptures its energy later in the book and delivers a strong, solid ending. Fascinating stuff.

It’s nice to see writer/artist Jesse Lonergan back on shelves, as it’s been a while since JOE & AZAT came out. ALL STAR (NBM) tells a deceptively simple story of a small town high school baseball star named Carl Carter. He’s the kid the whole community rallies behind, the one with a chance to play college ball on scholarship. His best friend, Edsen, is different, though. Edsen’s from a broken home, has a track record for screwing up, and is going nowhere. This fazes neither of them, though, until in a moment of pure stupid, they pull a “prank” while drunk that sees them get arrested by the cops. That’s when Carl begins to truly see the world and its double-standards for the first time, as he and Edsen are given wildly differing punishments. Lonergan does get things right at every turn. His town feels right, the people who live there feel right, the reaction to what happens feels right, and the angst Carl feels over it feels right. There’s a universal recognition of the human condition here that works. Having grown up in a town like this, I saw the truth in it. The art has a crisp, cartoon-y look about it, and the ending, while feeling a little manufactured, resonates in the final panels. Solid stuff.

The GRAPHIC CLASSICS series continues to be an evergreen for Eureka Productions, as the 3rd volume (of 24!) heads back into print, now with 80 new pages of work. GRAPHIC CLASSICS: H.G. WELLS offers up “The Time Machine”, “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, “The Invisible Man”, and “The Inexperienced Ghost” in one volume, and the material here is quite strong across the board. Not only are the stories done well, but they are ones that any fan of Wells’ work would want to read. Creative types like Simon Gane and Rich Tommaso can be found doing some of the art, so the book looks fantastic. This series of books is not likely to ever make an enormous splash in the comic shop market, but it is just about perfect for bookstores and libraries. It’s a smart move by GC majordomo Tom Pomplun to target those markets and fill a severe need. Recommended, as always.




MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL

MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL: Book One
Written by Saurav Mohapatra and Illustrated by Vivek Shinde
Published by Archaia Entertainment


Reviewed by Avril Brown

Back in August I reviewed the first two issues of MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL and I knew the creative team of Mohapatra and Shinde were onto something, and now that Book One: Good Cop, Bad Cop is complete that obvious fact is available to the world in shiny hardcover.

Although this is a tale starring a grieving police officer, there are no full on ‘good guys’ in MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL. There is love and loss, violence and revenge, and above all, the clarity of a man with nothing left to lose. Gritty, powerful and hauntingly dark, MUMBAI sinks its hooks into the reader making you glad you don’t live in the crime-infested and corrupt Mumbai of the eighties and nineties, but leaves you wishing Mohapatra and Shinde will take you there again.

Arjun Kadam is the perfect protagonist: angry, self-destructive and quintessentially human. A member of the Mumbai ‘Enforcer’ squad, a team of police who eliminate the criminal element rather than follow due process, Kadam was no squeaky clean hero, and when he lost his wife and unborn baby, he became an aimless addict. It took his near death and the death an innocent child to set him on his path, one that would see him covered in blood yet washed clean at the same time. Mohapatra injects such realistic attitude and pain in his main character, armed with a Walther, a .45 and plenty of foul-mouthed one liners, you’ll find yourself rooting for Kadam before you even know what he’s fighting for.

The interludes scattered throughout Book One add real depth not to Arjun’s bloody rampage, but to his home: the violent and unforgiving world of Mumbai. By adding in several side tales of other unfortunate souls, some with delusions of power, others simply trying to survive, Mohapatra fleshed out his colorful and dangerous universe.

Archaia is known for backing some of the prettiest ponies in the comics business, and they found a fine looking stallion in MUMBAI. Shinde’s watercolor artwork gives the story a dreamlike quality, even when the blood is cascading out of bullet holes. The colors and varying sharpness of each panel add dimensions to Kadam’s struggle with depression and his fight to do at least one thing right. MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL is an amazing story particularly since every page shows that Mohapatra and Shinde were made to tell it together. Here’s hoping we see more from this team, for there are undoubtedly more tales to tell from the streets of Mumbai.

MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL

Mumbai Confidential #1-2
Written by Saurav Mohapatra and Illustrated by Vivek Shinde
Published by Archaia Entertainment


Reviewed by Avril Brown

A brand new comic from the company producing MOUSE GUARD and other amazingly unique stories, MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL makes quite the stunning splash in its introductory issues and should swiftly develop a loyal following. Inspired by actual events, the dark plot is threaded with hope and humor, the art is hauntingly beautiful and the seamless union of the two will ensure MUMBAI deserves the hype it will undoubtedly garner.

At some point in recent history, the city of Mumbai’s organized crime had spiraled out of control and there was little law enforcement and due process could accomplish in terms of stemming the tide, until the cops of Mumbai created a team of officers who were granted lethal sanction. Crime rates dropped dramatically, but soon after this seemingly effective change the cops who were hailed as heroes found themselves under scrutiny as evidence mounted that the reigns of the criminal underworld had simply shifted into their hands. MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL is a fictional account of what was happening during that tumultuous period, and how it was happening to one man in particular.

Arjun Kadam is a man who has been through hell. Within the first two issues readers are teased with glimpses into the life of this complex character, and he has more than a few stories to tell. As a former cop of Mumbai he was one of the men eliminating the criminal element one bullet at a time, but as far as Kadam was concerned he was a murderer. As a widower he’s left with a gaping hole instead of a heart, and very little to live for. As an addict, he struggles daily with his demons. As a new comic book character, he is gold; the kind of beat-up, weathered, anti-hero readers want to root for every step of the way on out of the hole he’s found himself in, knowing the journey is going to be an unforgettable bitch of a trip.

Mohapatra is writing an intense, powerful story here, and Shinde is painting each panel so perfectly it is almost if they are in each other’s heads. The unforgiving and brutal story material is tempered by Kadam’s smart-ass inner monologue, and the noir-style art has splashes of color and provides snapshots of raw emotion, making it impossible to look away, let alone not be affected by what is unfolding. With a creative team this hot and in sync, MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL can only keep getting more remarkable from here on out, and with the first two issues being this impressive, that is saying a lot.

NEW ARCHAIA

NEW ARCHAIA
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Archaia


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two new hardcovers from the folks at Archaia…

Looking for a book to give an all-ages reader? THE DARE DETECTIVES would fit the bill nicely. Writer/artist Ben Caldwell collects the complete “Snow-Pea Plot” story under one cover in this one, and it’s a hoot and a half. The Dare Detectives are former crook Maria (who has more guts than good sense), lunkhead Toby (always good in a fight) and JoJo (a surly rabbit). Not possessed of anything resembling luck, they lose their license just in time for their landlord to be kidnapped… but who needs a license anyway? Fist fights, car chases, evil pandas, man (and rabbit) eating abominable snowmen, and massive property destruction follow. Caldwell has a pleasing sense of style and a gift for humor, and the book is completely accessible for anyone that picks it up. That’s anyone, by the way; not just a book for all ages, but also for both genders, he doesn’t lock anybody out of the fun.

Knowing absolutely nothing in advance about writer Patrick Marty and artist Chongrui Nie’s work, I was caught completely off-guard by JUDGE BAO & THE JADE PHOENIX. Diving deep into the legendary Chinese man of justice, this gorgeous graphic novel finds the man and his entourage alighting in a city full of corruption. The poor languish in prison on trumped-up false charges, murders occur in service to enriching the already rich… but the land’s fairest jurist is on the case. The story itself is well executed, but the star here is Nie’s work, which is jaw-dropping in its beauty. The photorealistic characters, the astonishing detail, the texture that leaps from the page… the book is a visual feast. I found myself stopping often, just to look at how Nie had created depth and realism in his images. Definitely one that those with sophisticated tastes will enjoy.


NEW GRAPHIC NOVELS

NEW GRAPHIC NOVELS
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Various


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Three spiffy new hardcovers have hit my desk lately. Let’s take a gander at them, shall we?

I was a huge fan of the Louvre-inspired graphic novel series even before I went to work for NBM Publishing, and I remain one after my departure. Thus, I was pleased to see another entry as ROHAN AT THE LOUVRE hit shelves recently. As with each of these books, it is radically different than the previous one, and in this case, than any of the others, period. ROHAN brings manga to the world of the Louvre, and Japanese artist Hirohiko Araki is the first non-French artist to participate in the endeavor. The story itself also ventures into horror territory, melding Euro and Japanese influences sweetly. Rohan, an artist, meets a mysterious woman who tells him of a painting made with the blackest ink ever, a story he forgets until one day he visits the Louvre and tries to see the painting. There, tragedy and terror unfold as the consequences of seeing the piece set in for Rohan and those around him. Everything here works; the art is lovely, the colors are striking, the story is interesting, and the presentation (hardcover and in proper right-to-left format) is excellent. The Louvre series continues to be absolutely magic for readers.

GENETIKS (Archaia) is also quite visually striking, and has the usual excellent production design I’ve come to expect from the publisher. The story is the real standout here, though. Thomas Hale, a research in a bio-lab, had given the company a blood sample when he started work. Unknown to him, they have been attempting to decode the human genome, and in Thomas’s case, they actually succeed. However, in order for the company to protect its assets, they want him to do something highly unusual: sign himself over to them as their property. Thus, he becomes privately owned by his employer. (Raise your hand if you think that turns out well. No?) Protest groups, friends, conspiracies, and machinations upon machinations… the whole mix is here, and writer Richard Marazano pulls out all the stops to keep the pace moving quickly and keep the reader guessing as to what is really going on. The art by Jean-Michel Ponzio is heavily photo-referenced, but never stiff, and it helps the story flow. The one real downside here is that this is listed as volume one, and you get left with an awfully large cliffhanger. Dunno when part two ships, but “soon” would be good.

While it seems to be sweeping up geeks and non-geeks alike, I have never quite gotten the fever for George R.R. Martin’s GAME OF THRONES (Bantam). It just isn’t my thing, in neither prose nor television. Thus, I’m probably not the best person to tell you about the graphic novel either. That said… this beautiful-looking book certainly presents the material well. Writer Daniel Abraham does a solid job of taking the material and shifting it to the comics medium and making it understandable and accessible and artist Tommy Patterson does effective work in keeping the storytelling clear and effective. This hardcover collection of the Dynamite Entertainment single issues gets a number of added bonuses, including a preface from Martin himself, and a lengthy sketch and design gallery. If you’re a fan, this is something you would definitely want to have on your bookshelf.



NEW ARCHAIA

ARCHAIA X 4
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Archaia

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Finally had some sunlight in my schedule, went through the recent stuff I’ve received from the folks at Archaia. Here’s the scoop…

The DAYS MISSING: KESTUS hardcover collection is a lovely package of a series I discussed as it was coming out. This second dose of DAYS MISSING was stronger across the board, with writer Phil Hester and artist David Marquez handling the duties for all five chapters. At the end of volume one we discovered that The Steward- the man who folds time and eliminates days damaging to the human race- was not alone in his immortality. Her name is Kestus, and though she is immortal, she lacks the power to fold. This sets her against The Steward, delivering him an eternal adversary. Smart move. It adds higher stakes to the series, mixes up things on the character end, and gives the book a strong narrative hook. This has proven itself to be a franchise-level title, I expect that we will see many more volumes of The Steward’s adventures before the series reaches a conclusion. One of the best sci-fi books on the market.

Writer/artist Giannis Milonogiannis’ OLD CITY BLUES is an interesting piece of work. Set in 2048 Greece after it has been rebuilt following a catastrophic flood, we meet Solano, a good cop with a level head on his shoulders. After a series of murders indicates that the company that rebuilt Greece is up to some shady stuff, Solano and his fellow law enforcers battle hacked vehicles, out-of-control robots, and potentially missing dead men to get to the heart of what’s going on. I liked OLD CITY BLUES up to a point; Milonogiannis’ art is interesting and edgy and his pages really catch the eye. There are influences here ranging from Europe to Asia, and together they deliver a look not commonly seen in comics. Yet at times he falters- the action becomes unintelligible, and the storytelling becomes rushed. Both of these problems were prevalent in the story’s climax, where I had zero idea what was happening. That said, artists tend to grow out of those things. I’d read a second volume, no question.

I had a very mixed reaction to MR. MURDER IS DEAD by writer Victor Quinaz and artist Brent Schoonover. Retired cop Gould Kane thinks he killed his greatest nemesis, Mr. Murder, but there’s far more to it than he could ever guess. As he retraces the dead man’s final steps, he discovers one last job was about to be pulled, and Kane decides to hire the dead man’s crew and pull it himself. Betrayals, bad guys, and booze follow. The book is done in a mixture of styles, part of it drawn in classic comics style, mimicking Chester Gould and Bob Kane’s work, as well as Lee Falk’s, and part of it is handled in more modern fashion, and I rather enjoyed the way the creative team put it all together. It’s quite admirable. But I never really got invested in Kane’s life or his plight. I know we don’t need to like the lead in a noir; that’s not the issue. It was the story of the last job that never really grabbed me. I never quite bought into why Kane chooses to do it. Your mileage may vary. Beautifully put together package, I should add.

The gem of the stack, and the buzz book coming out of San Diego this year, was Royden Lepp’s RUST: VISITOR IN THE FIELD. A young farmer named Roman Taylor rebuilds his farm after a world war, thanks to some recent help from a young boy with a jetpack named Jet Jones. Here we get the story of how Jet and Roman met- it was as a leftover robot from the war tried to kill Jet, and a ton of plot pillars being put into place for future volumes of the series. Everything here works; the world Lepp has created is intriguing- both sedate and filled with danger, the characters are fascinating, and the art is exquisite. He has a gift for depicting silence just as well as he choreographs action sequences. The colors are also quite striking. RUST will be a strong contender for year-end remembrance from me this year. It’s a must for comics lovers.






ARCHAIA X 2

ARCHAIA X 2
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Archaia


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Digging into the massive pile of Archaia books I brought home from SDCC. I’ll be sending their P.R. chief Mel Caylo my massage therapist bill…

Have you noticed the recent brouhaha about DC almost entirely shutting out female characters and creators in their new 52? Do you wonder if there’s anything, excepting manga, for a younger female reader on the shelves? How about comics that feature non-white leads aimed at those young girl readers? Then look no farther- MIRANDA MERCURY is here to rescue you from the “no girls allowed in the treehouse” feeling you get from the bigger comics companies. Young miss Mercury is labeled as a “science hero”, and she most certainly is- she’s smart, using her intelligence to outwit her foes. But she’s also an action hero, dashing across the universe to battle nasty aliens, terrorists, and other assorted bad guys. She does so in an extremely cool spaceship and with the help of her best friend and sidekick Jack. Writer Brandon Thomas and artist Lee Ferguson have come together to create a marvelous heroine in Miranda, one that readers can identify with and emulate. She’s brave, honest, and moral, yet she has her own flaws that keep her from being perfect. The world she inhabits is colorful and interesting. The stories are fun and present their own unique challenges for both the character and the reader. In short: I was head over heels for this book. Can’t wait to put it in the hands of a fifteen-year old girl.

I had mixed reactions to BLEEDOUT, which sets up the backstory to the MMPO game. Writer Mike Kennedy works with a ton of terrific artists to present chapters focused on the major players in the game’s universe. Howard Chaykin, Glenn Fabry, Ben Templesmith… the quality of artistic talent here is first rate, and the book looks spectacular. And to Kennedy’s credit, his work in creating a vivid backdrop to the greater tale is strong. The basic idea is that the world oil reserve dries up in the span of less than a year, creating anarchy and new societal rules and structures. It makes for a good horror story, that much is certain. The characters now in charge are quite intriguing, and I can see why it would entice people to play the game. Now for the problem- this book, while extremely attractive and reasonably full of ideas and concepts that capture your eye, really has no story. In fact, there are interstitials about a character named Pilot (as well as his wife) that aren’t addressed at all. This may be something you are supposed to figure out by playing the game, but that adds to the feeling that this is really just a classy advertisement. I’d have liked to see a more complete narrative here so that it felt a bit more like a genuine graphic novel. Your mileage may vary.


LUCID – CYCLOPS

LUCID/CYCLOPS
Written by Michael McMillian and Drawn by Anna Wieszczyk
Written by Matz and Drawn by Luc Jacamon
Published by Archaia


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two new hardcovers from the gang at Archaia…

Agent Matthew Dee isn’t your ordinary Fed. He’s proficient with a gun, but he’s far more effective as a combat mage, thus he has been appointed “Protector of the Realm” and does the mystical dirty work for the White House. But when a centuries old threat rears its head, he finds himself involved in a conspiracy with a scope that even a man of his talents cannot imagine. Death, destruction, and betrayal follow. There’s lots to like about LUCID– Dee is an interesting character, the underlying setup for how magic plays a part in the world is interesting, and the way that magic is portrayed artistically on the page is visually interesting. Ultimately, the book is fun. But it is also an object lesson on the publishing side of things- I saw issues three and four in floppy back when they came out, and I couldn’t make heads or tails out of them. Yet the material makes perfect sense presented here in the collection. LUCID is a strong argument for skipping the monthly and going straight to graphic novel. It reads better, looks better, and is far more satisfying. Oh, and for those that care about such things: its writer and creator, McMillian, has made a name for himself recently as an actor on TRUE BLOOD, which helps this book get an intro from that show’s creator, Alan Ball.

Volume one of CYCLOPS collects the first four issues of the series, and as with LUCID, the collection treats the story a bit better than the pamphlet comics do. This is, in part, due to the monthlies breaking longer stories into pieces. Here we get the two longer stories that encompass those four issues grouped as two long chapters, and they read wonderfully. The story, which focuses on a near-future where warfare has been almost entirely outsourced, follows Doug Pistoia, an ordinary guy who at first merely needs a job and instead winds up a military hero with his exploits broadcast in primetime television for the world to see. Matz and Jacamon, who have been teaming together for a long time, deliver the goods in CYCLOPS, mixing vicious satire, raw action, and strong characters to make for a riveting book. Doug is a complex and sympathetic protagonist, and watching him try to maintain his simple human decency- yet become slightly corrupted at the same time- makes for fascinating reading. I also admire the well-thought out social satire of the book- the creative duo has taken embedded journalism to the next logical step- making the soldiers themselves into the cameramen.

Two easily recommendable books.


FCBD 2011

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2011
Written and Drawn by Various

Reviewed by Marc Mason

May 7, 2011 is this year’s Free Comic Book Day, and as always, almost every publisher in the game will have something to offer. Some of the free books will be pretty good, some of them will be total crap- and don’t let the name of the publisher fool you on that one. DC, in particular, has put out more than their share of awful FCBD books, while some of the indy publishers have struck gold year after year. Here are a couple of the better indy efforts you’ll have the opportunity to grab this year.

JAKE THE DREAMING from Radical Comics is something different for both the publisher and the usual FCBD offerings. JAKE is actually an illustrated prose novel from writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman and artist Andrew Jones. The story is a classic “hero’s journey”- the young boy at the heart of the story discovers that his daydreaming is more than just idle wandering; instead it turns out to be a genuine super-power that allows him to enter the dreams of others and protect them from evil. Jake is a good protagonist and the writers make him easily relatable and likeable. The prose is crisp and clear, and Jones’ illustrations are quite lovely. Having this book as an FCBD is an excellent decision- it will appeal to readers of all ages, and this comic book “holiday” is important is reaching out to the younger demographic that comics needs in order to survive and thrive. Pick it up.

The folks at Archaia know this very well, and their FCBD book reflects that knowledge. Their MOUSE GUARD/DARK CRYSTAL FLIP BOOK is an excellent introduction to two of their strongest franchises… and more. David Petersen’s MOUSE GUARD gets a nifty short story that introduces the world, shows off his incredible art, and gives ample reason as to why you’d want to read more. THE DARK CRYSTAL gives the reader a taste of how the publisher has been handling their Jim Henson franchise of books, as they prepare to publish prequels to the beloved classic film. But that isn’t all- the company is adapting an unproduced Henson screenplay into an original graphic novel this fall, and this FCBD book has behind-the-scenes material on its origins and the production of it. Think that’s enough? You also get a new DAPPER MEN short story from Jim McCann and Janet Lee that takes off from the ending of the best-selling graphic novel. If you walk out of your store on FCBD without this book, you’re crazy.

ARCHAIA TRIO

ARCHAIA TRIO
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Archaia

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Three new graphic novels from the folks at Archaia…

Let’s start with AN ELEGY FOR AMELIA JOHNSON by writer Andrew Rostan and artists Dave Valeza and Kate Kasenow. ELEGY isn’t the story of a young woman dying of cancer at age thirty. Instead, it is the story of her two best friends, a documentary filmmaker and a magazine writer who, thanks to their bi-coastal lifestyles, have never actually met. As Amelia nears her end, she brings the two together for a project: deliver videos she has made for some of those she is leaving behind and record their reactions. That’s a setup ripe for emotional moments, and ELEGY has plenty, but it’s also a setup for overwrought moments, and the book has more than a few of those as well. That’s not to say that the book isn’t skillfully executed- the art is very good, and the story certainly captures your attention and holds it to the very end. Yet you can see Amelia’s real goal right away and it takes away some of the impact that some of the story beats should have. I’d have liked to see some subtlety in how the story developed, because I think the book would have risen to the next level because of it. Recommended, but with the caveat that it wasted some potential.

Writer Rob Vollmar and artist MP Mann bring us INANNA’S TEARS, a story of early (pre-literate)-Sumerian civilization in turmoil. The primary religious leader- the En- is about to pass on, and when he names his successor, a young woman named Entika, slight changes in how the city of Birith is governed begin. But that is not enough for the factions that live outside the city walls, and one man has begun rousing the anger that lives within those who do not live a life of plenty, and the plot to depose the new En and end the worship of Inanna begins. There’s a lot to like about INNANA; the book has a sense of authenticity, as the creative team did their best to give an idea of what the people and places would look like at a time before recorded history. The ceremony to worship the goddess also rings quite true. But they really score in giving us a character in Entika that we can understand and empathize with. The conflict that arises between Birith and those that live outside her walls also feels real, and I was completely hooked in from the start. The ending gets a little unclear on the artistic side of things, but not so much that it gives me pause in recommending the book.

THE SECRET HISTORY OMNIBUS VOL.2 by write Jean-Pierre Pecau and artist Igor Kordey is one of the toughest graphic novels I’ve read in a while. I’ve actually tried to read this series in its single issues and been stymied, completely unable to follow the plot. However, in this larger, collected edition, I was able to get a better grasp on what was happening, as well as where the over-arching plot was going. That said- it sure wasn’t easy, and I’m sure it didn’t help that I haven’t seen/read volume one. SECRET is the story of four immortals known as Archons and how they have manipulated the world behind the scenes for centuries. But as this volume kicks in, a fifth Archon has joined the fray, and he is not content to stay behind the scenes. Thus the others must begin taking a greater hand in the planet’s day-to-day affairs. There are a ton of characters here, and with their various changes in clothing, hairstyles, and the occasional beard, keeping track of them is not easy. The book works best when it focuses on a simple plot within the larger structure, such as an issue where the Archons use their abilities to assist the Allies in preparation for the Battle of Midway. Other quiet moments, such as when one of the Archons takes on lovers who show great artistic ability in order to create a powerful tarot deck, also resonate. This is like reading a labyrinthine novel, and it requires an incredible amount of patience- truthfully, it tested mine on multiple occasions. Recommendable only for those who aren’t faint of heart.