Five More Reviews in Search of a Column
Nothing but reviews this month, so let's get on with the show.
Heartless by Nina Bunjevac (Conundrum)
A Canadian cartoonist by way of the former Yugoslavia, Bunjevac delivers emotional,
beautifully-striking stories in the mode of a deranged O'Henry/Burns/Crumb cross pollination. Each
of these five tales delivers a unique, both graphically and story-wise, perspective into these
darkly abusive male realities. Bunjevac's often submissive women suffer, survive, and at times
thrive. Nothing typifies this more than the volume's excellent
centerpiece "Bitter Tears of Zorka Petrovic," which chronicles the lead character's obsession
with a male prostitute. Complete with a gallery of illustrations, Heartless, Bunjevac's
first collection, successfully introduces this unusual artist's work to the masses.
The Hive by Charles Burns (Pantheon)
Returning to the surreal universe first experienced in 2010's X'ed, Burns, creator of Black Hole
and famed contributor to the legendary anthology series Raw, expertly reveals more of Doug's
intriguing story in The Hive. As with the previous, the beautifully disturbing, non-linear tale leaps
effortlessly between the real and unreal. Though in this installment, the lines further blur as elements
from the bizarrely apocalyptic reality and the "normal" collide. Inspired equally by the works of
Hergé and William Burroughs, Burns once again provides one of the best graphic novels of the year.
Monsieur Jean—The Singles Theory by Philippe Dupuy & Charles Berberian (Humanoids)
A popular series of French graphic novels, the stories of a thirty-something Parisian writer garnered
creators Dupuy and Berberian numerous awards over the past 20 years including a prestigious Angoulême
International Comics award. Originally published in 2000, Monsieur Jean—The Singles Theory works perfectly
a stand alone volume to meet Jean in a series of insightful and humorous tales. His friend Felix, bitter from a
recent break up, moves in. Seemingly inspired by The Odd Couple, the vignettes often showcase
Felix's struggles and Jean's efforts to help. Funny in the Seinfield vein, the simple, two color Dupuy and
Berberian art matches perfectly with the subject and content of the dialogue-centric stories.
The Manhattan Projects Volume 1: Science. Bad. Written by Jonathan Hickman Art by Nick Pitarra & Jordie Bellair (Image)
This is not your grandfather's Manhattan Project. In Hickman's altered vision, the Project brain trust,
populated with twisted versions of physicists Oppenheimer, Einstein, Feyman, Fermi, and Daghlian, develop
countless weapons of mass destruction. The super scientists also delve into other aspects of fringe sciences
such as other-dimension worlds, teleportation, and an update on the "brain in the jar." In this first chapter
of the surprise-filled tale, the scientists and their backgrounds are introduced as are their missions. Though
Hickman does a fantastic job of displaying the varied personalities and complex storylines, the focal point
of The Manhattan Projects Volume 1: Science. Bad. is the slow reveal of the world's secret history. Given
Hickman's similarly-toned, excellent work on S.H.I.E.L.D. and Fantastic Four, both
for Marvel, this should surprise no one. Pitarra's and Bellair's art compliment and often enhance the complex ideas.
The Essential Warlock Volume 1 by Jim Starlin and others (Marvel)
Many of the Marvel comics of the 70s featured metaphysical concepts and characters. While most of these efforts
failed, Jim Starlin's Warlock melded these ideas within the worlds of prose science fiction and the Marvel
universe. The Essential Warlock Volume 1 collects all these star-spanning stories. Starlin's vision, elevate Warlock
from a forgettable, ill-defined character (the previous mediocre adventures are also included in this volume) into a
fascinating exploration of good vs. evil, past vs future, and love vs hate, all along a backdrop of space opera and
intergalactic religious wars. Some heady stuff for a seventies Marvel comic. Starlin's art and writing, though clunky
at first, evolve alongside the ambitious story. The one downside to this collection, beyond the often terrible stories
that precedes the good stuff, is that the black and white remove some of the extra worldiness of the work. Obviously
inspired by Kirby's Fourth World, Starlin's magnificent Warlock saga emerged as one of the finest comics of the decade.
Thanks to Austin Books for their help.
Copyright © 2012 Rick Klaw
Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied
countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including
The Austin Chronicle, The San Antonio Current,
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy,
Moving Pictures, RevolutionSF,
Conversations With Texas Writers, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe,
Steampunk, and The Steampunk Bible.
Coming in March 2013 from Tachyon, he is editing The Apes of Wrath, a survey of apes in literature
with contributions from Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Franz Kafka, Gustave Flaubert,
Joe R. Lansdale, Pat Murphy, Leigh Kennedy, James P. Blaylock, Clark Ashton Smith, Karen Joy Fowler,
Philip José Farmer, Robert E. Howard and others.
Klaw can often be found pontificating on Twitter
and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.