Across the Ocean: Izneo Pubwatch September

Across the Ocean: Izneo Pubwatch September

Welcome to the September Izneo Pubwatch! We at WWAC have been diving into the latest in European graphic novels translated into English, and I can’t wait to share with you my latest finds. There are also some exciting offers from Izneo this month that you might enjoy. As always, if you haven’t had time yet,

Welcome to the September Izneo Pubwatch! We at WWAC have been diving into the latest in European graphic novels translated into English, and I can’t wait to share with you my latest finds. There are also some exciting offers from Izneo this month that you might enjoy. As always, if you haven’t had time yet, please do check out Izneo’s site, it’ll be fun!

And now, without further ado, let’s take a look at the latest news from Izneo. I’ve also got a few mini-reviews of the newest Izneo comics for you to read.

Izneo in the News

In time for Netflix’s The Dark Crystal prequel, Izneo is offering volume two of Jim Henson’s Beneath the Dark Crystal for CAD $25.49. You can also buy all three available volumes at a discount: only $36.47. Enjoy!

Fans of Cinebook graphic novels will enjoy Izneo’s new limited offer. Eight books, including the Darwin’s Diaries series and the Distant Worlds series, are available from Izneo for CAD $3.69. The offer ends September 8, so you should check it out as soon as possible.

Mini-Reviews: Loved It!

Omni #1

Devin Grayson (writer), A Larger World Studios (letters), Alitha E. Martinez (artist), Bryan Valenza (colours)
H1 (English, 2019)

Omni #1 Cover, published by H1 - A woman in a cargo vest and gloves standing on a map of Africa
In this spin-off of the Ignited series, also from Izneo, Dr. Cecelia Cobbina is on a mission to find out how and why she was Ignited. In the meantime, she is using her powers to help her fellow Ignited alongside her friend and confidante, Mae Walters. But this is a much larger world than they realise.

I’ve been enjoying Ignited and this spin-off captures the same suspense of the primary series. The stakes don’t seem to be as high, however, because Cecelia and Mae are pretty much superheroes. Mae is, in fact, writing a comic book about their adventures.

As an opening salvo, this first issue is more about the mystery surrounding the Ignited. There are some fantastic scenes focusing on Cecelia’s extraordinary new mental powers. I would have liked some indication as to where the story is headed, though. As of now, we don’t have a clear villain or a purpose for the story. But what we’ve learned is so enjoyable that I don’t really mind.

Omni #1 Pages 8-9, Published by H1 - A group of people in an operating room during a surgery, some of them transparent and color-tinted with speech bubbles matching their color
And the art is spectacular. This is the kind of rich, almost decadent, comic book art that I adore. There is so much detail in every panel and so many realistic colours that I want to live in the pages. Gorgeous stuff; I can’t wait to read more.

Zaroff

Dan Christensen (translation), Cromatik Ltd (letters), François Miville-Deschênes (writer), Sylvain Runberg (artist)
Lombard (French, 2019), Europe Comics (English, 2019)

Zaroff cover by Miville-Deschênes. Europe Comics - A white-haired man, smoking a cigarette and wearing a disheveled pinstripe suit, holds a crossbow over his shoulder against a jungle background
A pseudo-sequel to the classic 1932 film The Most Dangerous Game, which was an adaptation of Richard Connell’s 1924 short story of the same name, Zaroff follows the titular villainous man-hunter as he recovers from the events in the story. But little does Zaroff know that he is being hunted, and the bait are his own family. Can he keep his family alive and complete this one last hunt?

I haven’t seen the film or read the original story, but Zaroff doesn’t need you to have that background information to enjoy it. It’s a self-contained suspense with the most horrifyingly violent characters that you can’t help but be compelled by.

The characters aren’t meant to be liked, but that’s what makes this book so exciting. You want everyone and no one to win. Every plot point is heightened, and the stakes seem impossibly high, but in the end, the reader comes away feeling like they’ve been on an extraordinary adventure. What more could one need?

Zaroff Page 58, Europe Comics - A group of travelers proceeding through a murky swamp, holding torches
I love the classical artistic style that is reminiscent of the time period the story is set in, and it also makes the action scenes feel more visceral.

I wouldn’t call Zaroff enjoyable, but it is a riveting read from start to finish.

Frank: The Story of a Forgotten Dictatorship

Ximo Abadía (writer and Artist), Ines Chèvallier (letters), Esther Villardón Grande (translation)
Dibbuks Ediciones (Spanish, 2018), Europe Comics (English, 2019)

Frank Cover by Ximo Abadía, Europe Comics - Against a solid red background, a cartoon of a man in uniform standing on a chair, holding up a blank sign and a hobby-horse with a donkey's head
This quirky retelling of the life and death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco is an astonishing read. Laid out almost like a children’s book, with its bright colours and limited text, one would be forgiven for thinking this is a fun story about an angry young man who never gives up. In actuality, however, this book tells the rather horrifying tale of a dictator whose atrocities have been hidden to the point of being forgotten.

But like so many dictators before and after, Frank left an indelible mark on his country and the world around him. I appreciated the analogy the creators drew to Frank’s love of squares, and how he quashed everyone who didn’t. A book like this acts as a gateway for readers of all ages to find out more about this person and why his legacy of terror was so quickly covered up.

Frank Pages 24-25 by Ximo Abadía, Europe Comics - Cartoon version of Frank calling up two generals to talk about squares, illustrated in primary red, blue, and yellow
The art is what really sells this story—the comic book medium is expertly leveraged, which makes it such an engrossing experience. That’s not to say that the pithy one-liners don’t have a place as well—I would say that it’s much harder to write less than it is to write more (and I say this as someone who never knows when to stop writing!).

I didn’t know what to expect with Frank, but what a fantastic read.

Mini-Reviews: Meh ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Trap

Mathieu Burniat (writer, artist, and colours), Cromatik Ltd (letters), Loup Michiels (artist and colours)
Dargaud (French, 2019), Europe Comics (English, 2019)

Trap Cover by Mathieu Burniat, Europe Comics - A caveman-esque character stands with a frightened dog against a background of various beasts
In an unspecified period of time, and on a planet that may or may not be Earth, a man travels the world with his dog. He has an extraordinary ability, however: he can take on the qualities of any animal, as long as he touches its hide. Together, the man and his dog must fight a dragon. Can they win?

What a strange little story! For one, there is no text in this book, at all, which makes it a quick read. However, the story itself is a little hard to follow—a number of the creatures look strange and unfamiliar, while others look like regular Earth animals. The flow of the book is also a bit difficult; there are recurring characters, but because of the lack of text, we don’t understand their motivations or their actions.

Trap Page 169 by Mathieu Burniat, Europe Comics - A red, four-legged beast lies prone on a landscape of orange hills with small fires all over it
Trap isn’t impossible to read, but I think it could have benefited from some occasional text to give the story more depth. As it stands, this book is a quick read that catches you by surprise but fails to leave much of an impression.

Mini-Reviews: Ugh, no!

Maxentius: The Nika Revolt

Cromatik Ltd (letters), Carlos Rafael Duarte (artist), James Hogan (translation), Romain Sardou (writer)
Lombard (French, 2016), Europe Comics (English, 2019)

Maxentius Cover by Carlos Rafael Duarte, Europe Comics - A muscular man holding a sword, accompanied by a tiger, against a dark red-orange background
532 AD: Rome is ruled by Justinian and his queen, Theodora. The pair enjoy their royal luxuries and the regular chariot races. But at one such race, an accident turns the crowds against each other. The city is encompassed in rage and violence. Only Maxentius, an animal keeper and confidant to the queen, can learn the truth of the accident. But will he find answers in time?

I loved the art in this book. It’s so luscious and beautiful—one can’t stop looking at it. The Roman setting is perfect for this artistic style.

Maxentius Page 10 by Carlos Rafael Duarte, Europe Comics - Maxentius works in an animal enclosure surrounded by tigers and lions
But the story itself wasn’t very exciting. It felt rushed—almost like the writer had a destination in mind and wanted to skip over the boring setup in order to get there. As a result, I felt like parts of the story had been omitted, and I couldn’t figure out the motivations for some of the characters’ actions.

Also, for a book written in 2016, there is way too much gratuitous female nudity—it’s jarring, annoying, and needless. That’s the kind of thing that creators add in the hopes of distracting from a poor narrative, but it only exacerbates an already unremarkable reading experience.

I can’t really think of anything but the art that recommends Maxentius: The Nika Revolt, unfortunately.

Bootblack Vol. 1

Cromatik Ltd (letters), Matt Madden (translation), Mikaël (writer and artist)
Dargaud-Benelux (French, 2019), Europe Comics (English, 2019)

Bootblack Cover by Mikaël, Europe Comics - A man kneels to shine someone's shoe on a sidewalk next to a street that shows reflections of city buildings
In World War II, Al Chrysler was a bootblack, till he fell in love with Maggie. He did what he could to get off the street but all it led to was violence, death, and his eventual conscription into a bloody war. Will he win his love and get his life back?

This book had so much promise but squandered it away on a central romance that is almost entirely non-consensual. Maggie repeatedly makes her disinterest in Al very apparent from the get-go, but that doesn’t stop him from harassing her, stalking her, and invading her workplace and her home, all in the name of getting her attention.

We don’t get Maggie’s point of view, so we have no idea how she feels about all this. To the reader, Al comes across as a creepy stalker who is one step away from full-blown sexual assault. Gross, gross, gross.

The rest of the story is nothing to write home about, either: there are street gangs fighting each other, and characters who do things because reasons. The main problem is that the protagonist is a stalker who we’re meant to sympathise with, and no, I can’t. And definitely not in a post-#MeToo world. Would you believe this book was written in 2019? So much nope.

Bootblack Page 37 by Mikaël, Europe Comics - Various city scenes illustrated in muted dark browns and greysI generally liked the art but the story is so poor that I couldn’t really enjoy it. I also don’t understand why so many books set during war times have washed-out or muted tones. Show the colours of the world and how people continued to survive, for once.

Anyway, a solid miss, this one.

Striped Pajamas

Veli Okulan (letters), Cem Ulgen (translation), Firat Yaşa (writer, artist, and colours)
Marmara Cizgi (Turkish, 2010), Europe Comics (English, 2019)

Striped Pajamas Cover by Firat Yaşa, Europe Comics - A close-up of a wide-eyed face, with the floating heads of an owl and cat and a moonlit castle in the background
A young man wakes up with absolutely no memory of who or where he is. He is wearing striped pajamas and is nicknamed Stripey by his rescuers, a brave woman named Nhi and her cohorts. Together, they must fight against an evil force and the government.

Striped Pajamas is like a fever dream in comic form and I didn’t really like it. The book tries to be irreverent and sublime, but never really achieves either. Whatever political statement I was meant to glean from the book was lost in the busyness of the panels.

Striped Pajamas Page 65 by Firat Yaşa, Europe Comics - A 3-by-5 grid of close-up panels showing the faces of Stripey and other characters
But what bothered me the most was the treatment of female characters. Nhi is essentially the only female character and she is damselled almost immediately after being introduced. That is seriously annoying. There is another female character who appears later for one page, and her treatment is even worse.

I didn’t know what to expect from this book, and what I read left me cold.

That’s all for now, folks. Come back next month to see what Izneo has for you!

Louis Skye
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