Reading Time: 7 minutes
Hello, and welcome back to Graphic Novel Weekly! I’ve missed you! I had a stack of cool stuff planned for Graphic Novel Weekly, but a scheduling issue caused a bit of a hiccup, and a sprained wrist made it nearly impossible for me to write with any sort of speed. That’s why, this week, all of my reviews are “Quick Hits!,” because they were all typed up one-handed. Excitingly, my very talented colleague, MAJK, is joining the fun this week, with a fantastic in-depth review of the first volume of The Warning. And all of those interviews I promised will still be on the way. Keep your eyes peeled next week (or look at the coming next week section…) for more info!
This week, Graphic Novel Weekly will be covering:
- The Warning, Volume 1
- 30 Days of Night 100-Page Giant
- Femme Magnifique
- Rolled & Told, Volume 1
- Book Learnin’
- The Veil, Part 2: Live
- The Horror of Collier County
- Midnight Radio
- Tarot Café: The Collector’s Edition, Book 3
- The Campbells, Volume 2: The Formidable Captain Morgan
As always, you can find every Graphic Novel Weekly column right here. Also, I cannot encourage you enough to check out more of MAJK’s work. You can find her solo writing work here. MAJK is also a regular contributor to Comic Book Corner, and you can find that team’s great stuff here.
Coming Next Week
Next week, I’m really excited to be featuring an interview with James W. Powell, writer of House of Fear. We’re going to be talking about horror comics, writing for younger readers, and bringing comic creation into schools. Be sure to swing by next week!
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The Warning, Volume 1
The Warning Volume 1 collects issues 1-5 of The Warning comic series published by Image Comics. This military science fiction series released its debut issue in November of 2018. Written and drawn by Edward Laroche, the story focuses on a small unit of experimental super soldiers mobilized to engage an unknown alien threat currently building an unidentified structure in the middle of Burbank, California.
The Warning Volume 1 begins slow, offering us a glimpse into the mind of Joshua, a soldier undergoing treatment in the top-secret Project Quiet Knife, that will either destroy him or turn him into a next-generation super soldier. The opening narrative wanders along an oddly philosophical path leaving us with the impression that Joshua is unusually introspective or simply unhinged.
From the start, Laroche crafts an edgy mood of foreboding woven with the anticipation of unknown danger. Cleverly implementing an unusual narrative, Laroche moves readers through time, repeatedly going forward or back, in a blunt-edged style with no more than an unadorned time stamp to signal the change. This jarring technique would seem clunky and awkward in any other book, but it not only fits the terse militaristic style of this tale; it serves to enhance the scattered uncertainty that each of our characters, civilian and military alike are feeling. We’ve dropped into their limited perspective and face with terrifyingly unfamiliar events.
The first half of The Warning Volume 1 ratchets ups the suspense and alternates perspectives. We are offered introductions to the multinational combat brigade known as Gladiator Two-Six. Then we experience rising fear as researchers watch and enormous machine-like structure slowly materializing in Burbank, CA. Add to all of this the realization that a planetary mass has ripped away from the gravity of its home star and is slipping silently through the infinite darkness toward our home planet.
Laroche ferries readers along the journey between Joshua’s backstory, a retrospective of related events leading to the deployment of Gladiator Two-Six, and the explosive reveal once contact with the alien technology occurs. Every moment of this tale moves in sync with Laroche’s meticulously-rendered visualization of military culture.
Even as the explosive conflict engulfs a significant portion of L.A. and the casualties mount, we still don’t know exactly the nature of the threat. What we do know by the intense cliffhanger ending of this volume is that it is hostile and it is very bad. As Jackknife, Switchblade, and Gladiator Two-Six face The Red Machine, we are left wondering if this could be the end of everything. The Warning Volume 1 is a slow burn military science fiction story that cranks the stakes and the tension up to extreme levels then leaves us with hints of an earth-shattering battle to come.
30 Days of Night 100-Page Giant
30 Days of Night blew up the horror comics scene when it first came out. I remember appreciating the fact that the series made vampires terrible, evil creatures again. That said, I struggled with Niles’ writing, and Templesmith’s art pushed at that boundary between artistic and unintelligible. I wanted to appreciate it more than I actually did. However, that was a decade ago, the story has moved on, and so have I. Did it get better? This new release doesn’t really seem to have. The story starts off a little abruptly and does not feel particularly new-reader-friendly. The new artist mimics Templesmith’s style, for better and worse. Fans of the series might find something here, but those looking for an engaging horror story should look elsewhere.
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This one is a little tricky to nail down. The idea of a bunch of short stories about influential women is awesome. In practice, these three- and four-page biographies are even shorter than they sound. As with any anthology, the quality varies, but overall it is pretty consistent. Yet, at least for me, reading a book full of incredibly short stories trying to cover entire lives wasn’t fully satisfying. This might be more effective as a reference than as a book to sit down and read all the way through in one sitting. Femme Magnifique works hard to spread stories of women, and succeeds, but it would benefit from giving these stories more room to breathe.
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Rolled & Told, Volume 1
Publisher: Quillion (Lion Forge)
Rolled & Told was introduced to me as having a mix of comics and tabletop roleplaying content, and it’s out from Lion Forge, a comic publisher. So I thought there’d be some comics. Imagine my surprise when there were nearly no comics in Rolled & Told, Volume 1. This collection has 11 pre-made adventures, most of which contain a 2-page comic giving a vignette of the start of the adventure. It also includes a massive number of articles and lots of resources for tabletop gaming. All told, there are less than 20 pages of comics in this large book, and there is no plot or character development to them, as they come in such short chunks meant only to introduce. This has TONS of content for playing 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, but definitely don’t pick this up for the comic side of things. It is not particularly accurate to label this as “comics & graphic novels,” as I saw it when I selected it for review.
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Writer: John McNamee
Artist: John McNamee
Publisher: Lion Forge
This collection of one- and two-page cartoons from McNamee’s Pie Comics is full of ups and downs. When it is at its best, it mixes high-brow humor and goofy comedy to make engaging jokes. When it isn’t at it’s best, Book Learnin’ is dry and drags on. Most of this collection is pretty solid, and overall it is a success, but the number of dud comics is a little too high for me to recommend it without a warning. This book shows heaps of potential, but it does not quite always fulfill it.
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The Veil, Part 2: Live
Writer: El Torres
Artist: Gabriel Hernandez
Publisher: Europe Comics, on behalf of Dibbuks Ediciones
The Veil continues to be an absolute joy to read. This second volume continues the story, as our “I see dead people” private eye continues to encounter horrific visions while in her childhood hometown. The plot is tight, and this volume is pretty short, but it feels like a story that is being told with little wasted space. I cannot wait to continue this series, which is quickly becoming one of my favorites in a genre (supernatural mystery) that I usually don’t find engaging. I’m all in on this one.
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The Horror of Collier County
This collection really ended up being a letdown. In general, little happens. When it does, and questions of horror and mental health rise, there seems to be no gravity to them, and they simply pass on by. This story falls flat. Dark Horse’s new collection of this series includes two short stories, which are much superior to the main feature here. I would have loved to have seen more of this type of work from Tommaso here, rather than the tepid plod that The Horror of Collier County ended up being.
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Four interweaving stories follow four protagonists struggling with living their lives authentically. The idea is quite nice, and there is potential here, but everything feels a little too convenient for the overall plot to have gravitas. I can’t delve too deeply without getting into spoiler territory, but betrayals go undiscussed, family fallout has only fleeting impact, and everyone has a happy ending. I wanted to see more deep exploration and meaningful interaction in this title, and while it held lots of hope, it did not do quite enough to make it stand out from other feel-good titles on the shelves. Not a bad read, by any means, but also not one that particularly stands out.
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Tarot Café: The Collector’s Edition, Book 3
Writer: Sang-Sun Park, Chandra Rooney
Artist: Sang-Sun Park
Translators: Jennifer Hahm, Soo-Kyung Kim
Regular readers of Graphic Novel Weekly will be familiar with this series, as I have been working my way through these omnibus editions over the last couple months. This collection wraps up Tarot Café, and does so in grand fashion. The stand-alone short stories told within the framework of Pamela’s café completely disappears, with the background story of Pamela’s search for magical pearls entering the forefront. There are admittedly a few too many twists and counters, as it becomes confusing to understand who betrayed who and what exactly is going on, but the level of epic is hard to beat as Pamela is lead by demons into the depths of Hell to find her destiny. Included in this collection is a light novel associated with this serious, making this volume a value buy as well.
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The Campbells, Volume 2: The Formidable Captain Morgan
Writer: Jose Luis Munuera
Artist: Jose Luis Munuera
Translator: Emma Wilson
Publisher: Europe Comics, on behalf of Dupuis
The first volume of The Campbells was a pleasant surprise for me, and I was looking forward to continuing my reading of it. Here in the second volume, readers get a lot more backstory to help build the foundation of the relationships between all of the characters and start to tie the disparate plot threads together. This series continues to be a light-hearted adventure that is doing its best to change my mind about pirate fiction.
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