By Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward. Illus.
by the authors.
2016. 120p. Image Comics, paper, $14.99
Society’s growing dependence on smart-phone apps and other computerized
devices is taken to a chilling conclusion in
this cautionary graphic novel. The story begins—and ends, 15-billion years later—with
a young artist, Peter, who, like everyone else
in this near-future world, is reliant on the
Service, an omnipresent, Internet-like system biologically hardwired into the brain.
Peter is invited to a gathering at the estate
of Service co-founder Patrick Whiteside,
a megalomaniacal genius with grandiose
dreams of transforming humanity through
technology—think Elon Musk on steroids.
Whiteside reveals the culmination of his research, the Vere Durga, a humanoid artificial
intelligence invented to help him develop a
means to free civilization from the limitations
of the body. The Vere Durga’s vastly advanced intelligence, however, quickly creates
and enacts a procedure that goes far beyond
anything Whiteside envisioned, transforming the guests to the next evolutionary level.
Sheean and Ward’s color artwork starts off
straightforward (if a bit stiff) but blossoms
into imaginative psychedelia as the mind supersedes the body. —Gordon Flagg
By Rick Geary. Illus. by the author.
2016. 80p. NBM, $15.99 (9781681120522). 741.5.
Continuing his series of graphic-novel
renditions of historical murder cases, Geary
portrays the notorious “Black Dahlia” killing
that gripped postwar Los Angeles. In 1947,
the dismembered body of a young woman
was discovered in a vacant lot. The victim
was soon identified as 22-year-old Elizabeth
Short, who like so many others had moved
to L.A. with showbiz dreams. Unlike most,
however, she fell in with a crowd that included Mob-connected figures. The hunt for the
murderer turned up nothing but dead ends,
even after a newspaper received an anonymous package containing items from Short’s
purse and a note purporting to be from the
killer. The investigation was also hindered by
the city’s notoriously corrupt police force,
raising suspicions of a cover-up. The crime
is unsolved to this day, and the LAPD’s files
remain sealed. While most fictionalized film
and prose versions of the murder have taken
a dark, noirish approach associated with the
late ’40s, Geary’s consciously antiquated visual style evokes an even earlier era, but it
clearly delineates the intricacies of this still-intriguing case. —Gordon Flagg
The Coldest Winter.
By Antony Johnston. Illus. by Steven
Dec. 2016. 184p. Oni, $19.99 (9781620103692).
After a series of failed recon assignments,
M16 agent David Perceval has been given
an impossible mission. Tasked with extracting a Russian scientist during the end of the
Cold War, he quickly discovers that escape
is unlikely in a snow-clad Berlin, while hiding is just as difficult with Russian spies and
double agents constantly on his tail. A prequel to Johnston and Sam Hart’s Coldest City
(2012), this is just as gripping, filled with
daring escapes and constant double crosses,
and the masterful and unexpected conclusion will keep readers guessing up to the
very end. Perkins’ artwork brings the shady
world of espionage to life: his heavy shadowing obscures nearly all facial features, and
gray benday dots provide the only contrast
between the stark black-and-white swaths
of the artwork. Though the visual style
sometimes makes it difficult to distinguish
between characters, the noirlike images deliver an atmosphere of questionable morality
and deep secrecy that’s perfectly in keeping
with the story. Ideal for fans of spy fiction.
Glenn Gould: A Life Off Tempo.
By Sandrine Revel. Illus. by the author.
Tr. by Montana Kane.
Dec. 2016. 136p. NBM, $25.99 (9781681120652).
Canadian concert pianist Gould (1932–82)
remains so famous for his eccentricities—his
humming while playing; his custom-made
(by his father), low-slung, squeaky, collapsible bench; his virtual marriage to a Steinway
that he carted with him on tour until its
traumatizing accidental destruction; his renunciation of public performance at 31; his
insistence on suffocatingly overheating
home, car, and recording studio; his bundling up for winter regardless of the actual
season; his hypochondria and pill-popping;
and more—that when we think “classical
pianist,” he is often the first person who
comes to mind. Counting on readers knowing enough already to not be confused by her
procedure, Revel structures this graphic biography as a series of flashbacks bumpered by
dreamlike sequences of Gould performing,
strolling through northern landscapes under overcast skies, and lying in a coma from
the stroke that killed him. The biographical parts are drawn realistically enough, but
they’re softened by a muted color palette and
the underlying texture of Revel’s medium,
watercolor paper. Concluding with lists of
recommended listening and reading, this is
striking work, indeed. —Ray Olson
Heartthrob, v.1: Never Going Back Again.
By Christopher Sebela. Illus. by Robert
Wilson and Nick Filardi.
Dec. 2016. 136p. Oni, paper, $9.99 (9781620103388).
Callie Boudreau has been given a second
chance. After recovering from a ground-breaking heart transplant, mild-mannered
Callie soon becomes reckless and wild. The
manifested spirit of her heart donor, Mercer, drives her even further as the two go on
crime spree while simultaneously falling for
each other. Though the concept is as original as it is bizarre, the plot verges on cliché
as Callie’s criminal career starts to overshadow
Mercer, causing resentment and strain in their
relationship. But intercut at the end of each
episode are flash-forwards to future big heists
gone wrong, creating a tense, page-turning
environment throughout the entire piece.
Though Wilson’s artwork lacks some detail
and polish, its thick lines and 1970s color palette give a slick, vintage tone to the visuals.
The first volume oddly ends with the couple
splitting up, so it will be interesting where
the next book, and Callie, go from here. This
one has a lot of heart and potential. Perfect
for fans of Chip Zdarsky’s hit, Sex Criminals.
By Martin Trystram and Romain Baudy.
Illus. by the authors. Tr. by Jessica
Dec. 2016. 96p. Titan Comics, $29.99 (9781785856877).
When radio operator Udo boards the
U-boat in and around which most of this
handsome, eerie story takes place, WWII’s
winding down. Getting to the sub was miserable for airsick Udo, but his new mates’
welcome promises worse when they discover a
Reich-banned book in his kit. “I have no idea
where it came from!” he pleads. The book gets
flushed into the Pacific, and we see it disintegrating in the (dark watermelon red) sea. Udo
weathers his first dive, first night shift, even
his first encounter with the reclusive, hostile
captain, who gives him his first punishment
detail. And the book comes back, only to
be shot out like a torpedo. A near-fatal last
mission seems to precipitate its final return.
Trystram’s artwork includes plenty of combat,
real and in the captain’s bad dreams, customarily lit in the single-hue suffusion manner
of submarine- and spacecraft-set movies, and
features figures in the geometrical-caricature
style of fantasy-tinged action comics. Pacific
keeps its secrets and mysteries while its visual
realization engages the eye and its characters
capture our sympathy. —Ray Olson
The Secret Loves of Geek Girls,
Ed. by Hope Nicholson.
2016. 256p. illus. Dark Horse, paper, $14.99
In this paean to all things geek, an all-