Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, March 7, 2014

Week ending March 7, 2014

Bendis, Brian Michael (text) & Michael Avon Oeming (illus.). Powers: Bureau. Vol. 1. Icon. 2014. 168p. ISBN 9780785166023. pap. $19.99. CRIME SUPERHERO
The latest chapter in Bendis (Mighty Avengers) and Oeming’s (Catwoman) Eisner Award–winning series brings big changes in the aftermath of the Battle of Chicago (Powers: Gods). With all powers-related cases now falling under federal jurisdiction, Christian Walker finds himself recruited by the FBI. His first assignment, alongside his old partner Deena Pilgrim, is the infiltration of an underworld operation dealing in trafficking powers babies. With their star witness murdered and Walker’s cover blown, the feds race to take down the organization before it can take out their newest agent. The pacing is spot-on, fast but not rushed, and Bendis’s gritty, creatively vulgar dialog is hard-hitting without crossing the line into satire.
Verdict Another interesting twist for a series that prides itself on stretching the boundaries of both the superhero and police procedural genres. Highly recommended for mature fans of Watchmen, Astro City, or even Ed McBain.—Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma

Morrison, Grant (text) & Darick Robertson (illus.). Happy! Image. 2013. 128p. ISBN 9781607068389. $24.99. Rated: M. CRIME/ACTION
Author Morrison (Superman: Action Comics) and artist Robertson (The Boys) offer an unconventional Christmas story, partnering a cop–turned–hired killer with a tiny blue cartoon horse. A little girl has been kidnapped and her imaginary friend Happy determines that only Nick Sax can save her. Unfortunately, Nick thinks Happy is a hallucination and is more concerned with dodging the Mafia thugs hunting him down.
Verdict In this collection of the stand-alone four-issue series, Morrison offers a violent and profane redemption story that reads like a Garth Ennis work, without achieving Ennis’s level of black comedy. Lacking that and Morrison’s typical metafictional approach, Happy! is really carried by Robertson’s art, which mixes the brutal with the surreal. Recommended for mature readers interested in crime noir with a supernatural twist, but Warren Ellis’s Fell works much better.—Terry Bosky, Madison, WI

Vandenbroucke, Brecht (text & illus.). White Cube. Drawn & Quarterly. 2014. 64p. ISBN 9781770461390. $22.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Belgian cartoonist Vandenbroucke’s debut consists mostly of single-page stories that follow the adventures of bald, pink twins as they struggle to understand and lampoon—often savagely—modern art. The strips range from irreverent, highbrow satire to the surreal to the purely scatological. While Vandenbroucke’s tone remains consistently comedic, the humor alternates between the relatively gentle—one page finds the twins purchasing a small painting of the moon and debating a place to hang it, before settling on the night sky—to the blisteringly angry, as in a strip that features them driving an artist whose work they despise to commit suicide and then showing up to his funeral in party hats. The artist’s actual point of view can be hard to pin down. Sometimes the twins celebrate artificiality and surrealism, elsewhere they seem horrified by anything less than absolute realism. Vandenbroucke is consistent, however, in expressing concern over the intersection of art and technology, the way that information overload and backlit screens can cheapen human achievement. This volume is an art object in itself, beautifully painted, featuring interesting experiments in perspective and design.
Verdict Sure to be embraced by open-minded art lovers and comics fans with a small-press bent.—Thomas L. Batten, Grafton, VA

Way, Daniel (text) & Shawn Crystal & others (illus.). Deadpool: The Complete Collection. Vol. 2. Marvel. 2013. 464p. ISBN 9780785185475. pap. $34.99. SUPERHERO
Collecting Volumes 3–6 of the trade paperbacks (issues 13–31) of Way’s run on Deadpool, this book follows Marvel’s loudmouth antihero in his quest to become a hero. But, first, he’s going to spend some of his newfound wealth on a pirate ship. After that, Deadpool gives it his best (and doomed) shot as an X-Man, Spider-Man, Secret Avenger, and Dracula hunter. Quiet moments with the title character are rare, but an encounter with Ghost Rider is unexpectedly poignant. For the most part, this work chronicles Deadpool’s hilarious misadventures with Marvel’s biggest heroes as he tries to find his place in the Marvel Universe. In other words, pure action and fun.
Verdict Deadpool injects welcome humor into a genre too often grim and gritty. Any Marvel character who has appeared in a recent movie shows up here to be mocked and often humiliated, giving this title wide appeal for comics fans who haven’t read or wish to revisit the earlier trades.—Terry Bosky, Madison, WI

starred review starWood, Brian (text) & Riccardo Burchielli (illus.). DMZ: The Deluxe Edition. Vol. 1. Vertigo. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781401243005. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401249823. F
DMZ030714Two implacable foes in a civil war face off with only an island no-man’s-land between them where people struggle to live but paradoxically continue to thrive. Oh, yes, and the island is Manhattan. This is the premise for writer Wood’s (Xmen: Primer; DEMO; The Massive) critically acclaimed series, the first 12 issues of which are now released in a hardcover with an additional interview featuring Wood on his creative process. Wood’s viewpoint character is Matty Roth, a photojournalism intern grabbed at the last second to accompany veteran Liberty News reporter Viktor Ferguson into the DMZ. Within moments of arrival, the helicopter is destroyed and Matty is alone with the denizens of New York City. Zee, a former med student, patches him up and sets him on his way determined to report on the people caught in the middle of the war. Artist Burchielli’s (John Doe; DIAL H) figures have a comic realism and individuality, while backgrounds from architecture down to street detritus add gritty texture.
Verdict This series belongs in every graphic novel collection for adults, and this sturdy volume will serve as either a great starting place or the perfect replacement for the original paperbacks that will be showing their age by now.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib. Wisconsin Rapids