New on Publishers Weekly: My Look at Dark Horse Originals
One of the promises I made when I launched Manga!Comics!Manga was that I would expand my coverage beyond Japanese manga into graphic novels and comics that I like, and not just the stuff that was originally created in Japan.
So just to give you a taste of what I mean, here’s my write-up about the upcoming graphic novels from Dark Horse Comics’ Dark Horse Originals imprint, due out in Fall 2013, written for Publishers Weekly.
Dark Horse Originals is not a new imprint — its origins are way back in 2009! But their Fall 2013 releases are really worth a look, even if you normally don’t linger on that side of the comics shop or (that side of the graphic novels shelves in your local bookstore).
The ones that really stood out for me, a reader whose tastes tend to lean toward manga and indie comics sensibilities, are:
Sabertooth Swordsman by Damon Genry and Aaron Conley (due out November 2013) – A hilarious, semi-hallucinogenic fantasy adventure romp set in land that’s vaguely Middle Eastern, Sabertooth Swordsman is the first full-length graphic novel by Gentry and Conley, and boy do they knock it out of the park. A hapless wimp must rescue his wife when she’s kidnapped by a magic-wielding mastodon who’s obsessed with math. Fortunately, a Cloud God grants him great power, sword-fighting skills and the head of a tiger — so off he goes on a quest that pits him against monsters, several large angry goats, and more than few angry villagers when his no-holds-barred battles with demons turn towns into piles of debris.
Packed with over-the-top action and witty dialogue from cover to cover, Sabertooth Swordsman has an art style that is quite unique — it’s densely detailed, with lots of surreal, organic landscapes and whimsical, expressive characters. It’s also a one-shot story, so it’s a great read that won’t leave you hanging for the next chapter. Can’t recommend it highly enough, especially if you love imaginative fantasy adventures like Magi or One Piece — so much fun! Sabertooth Swordsman is available for pre-order on Amazon, and issues 1-6 are on sale on Dark Horse Digital now, either as single issues or as a 6-issue bundle.
Bandette by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover | Dark Horse Comics
Bandette by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover (hardcover edition due out November 2013, issues 1-5 available now on ComiXology)- A mysterious caped gamine with a taste for larceny finds that her love of adventure and her need to acquire fine art and rare artifacts puts her squarely at odds with a criminal mastermind. On top of that, she is challenged to prove her skills against a rival cat burgler who is older, more experienced, and maybe just a bit more clever than she is — or is he?
Bandette is kind of like a mix between Nancy Drew and Lupin III. It’s a fun read that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It features some clever capers that are light-hearted enough for tween/teen readers, and smart enough for grown-up readers to enjoy too. The full-color art is fully painted rather than black/white line art that’s colored in, so it feels more like an illustrated picture book than a comic book.
The first five chapters is largely about establishing the world of Bandette, so pick up the first volume of this Eisner Award-winning series, and see where Tobin and Coover are taking their caped criminal next. The first five issues of Bandette is available on Comixology now, and the hardcover edition, which will include bonus stories and art, is available for pre-order on Amazon.
Bad Houses | © Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil
Bad Houses by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil (due out October 2013) – A first time collaboration between prose novelist Ryan and the creator of the critically acclaimed Finder series (which is also available from Dark Horse), Bad Houses is a one-shot graphic novel set in a small town in Oregon that has seen better days. Two teens discover their attraction to each other, and uncover several secrets about their families in the process.
Lewis helps his single mom with her estate sale business — that’s where he meets Anne, a photographer who’s fascinated by the stories she sees in the old photos and memorabilia left behind by people who have died or left town. As the story unfolds, we see Anne wrestle with her mom’s dysfunctional hoarding behavior, and Lewis struggle with his mother’s expectations, and see that there are mistakes and regrets hidden in both of their families’ histories.
Bad Houses is a nicely paced story. Ryan adds shades and details to her cast of characters in a way that feels natural and unforced, with a few unexpected surprises along the way. The characters, both major and minor, are depicted as three-dimensional humans, who are flawed in a way that feels familiar and real. A fair amount of this is also thanks to McNeil’s skill as a visual storyteller — so much is revealed in the way she draws the town and the nuances of the facial expressions of each character as they interact with each other. A really satisfying story that rewards repeat reading. Worth a look if you like slice-of-life storytelling, like Solanin and not simple . Bad Houses is available for pre-order on Amazon.
Check out the rest of my article on Publishers Weekly to hear more about the other upcoming Dark Horse Originals releases for Fall 2013, and a little more background on this very indie imprint from this top U.S. comics publisher.