In a tight economy, it's not always clear what you should spend your hard-earned money on, and with comic books getting more and more expensive, your dollar doesn’t go as far at the comic shop as it did in the past. We here at Complex feel your pain, so we're providing you with a rundown of the best comics coming out on November 7, 2012.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Vol. 1
What it’s about: If there's one thing that DC’s Vertigo line has always strived for, it’s to deliver comic books on a monthly basis that give fans something other than brightly colored sci-fi and superhero stories. And with the imprint’s adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Vertigo has gotten about as far away from Superman and Batman as possible, with varying amounts of success. Retelling the first half of Stieg Larsson’s hit crime/mystery novel, this adaptation is written by novelist Denise Mina, with art from Leonardo Manco.
Mina worked with Vertigo before on Hellblazer in the mid-2000’s, but the task of delivering a comic version of a novel that has already been brought to the big screen both more than once is a completely different animal. However, despite the lofty legacy she has to live up to, Mina pulls the story off admirably. This volume only contains the events of the first half of the original novel, which allows her to fit in an astonishing amount of detail and character moments.
The cross-cutting between the mystery of Harriet’s death and the journey of Lisbeth Salander is all here, and handled quite well. Unsurprisingly, the sections with Lisbeth are enthralling. Her character is mysterious, deep, and engaging. You can spend hours examining Lisbeth's dialogue and body language and still find more layers to her. On the other hand, the Mikael Blomkvist sections of the book tend to drag just a bit. This has nothing to do with Mina’s ability to capture the novel, but it’s more about the comic book medium itself not being conducive to so many scenes populated by talking heads, which are better captured in novels or movies. When the mystery finally kicks in, though, things pick up a bit.
This is all aided by Manco's terrific art. He brings a photorealistic style to the book that completely nails the tone. The rape scene towards the end stands out as particularly disturbing, given just how much detail is in each of the character’s faces. However, there are times when Manco's panel layout and composition get a little static, but the pages of brilliance far overshadow those.
If you’ve read the book and seen the movies, then you might as well go all in and check out Vertigo’s take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s the story you remember, with a modern comic flare that gives a visual life to these characters. But those who are completely unfamiliar with this series would be advised to first pick up the novel and then circle back to the comic. This new perspective might change how you look at things.
Manhattan Projects #7
What it’s about: In a bizarre collision of post-WWII history and Philip K. Dick-like sci-fi, Jonathan Hickman’s Manhattan Projects is a mad casserole of the surreal, the hilarious, and the downright creepy. Following a group of scientists (some real, some fictitious), this book takes a look at the dangers of putting anyone with an IQ above 180 into the same room as each other. Manhattan Projects stars the likes of Robert Oppenheimer’s homicidal twin brother, Joseph; Albert Einstein; and a slew of Nazi and Soviet scientists. Together, they're just as dangerous as they are brilliant.
What to expect this month: This issue shelves the sci-fi action and lunacy from past installments in favor of big ideas and heated conversations that further flesh out the actual plot of the book. In an effort to “protect” mankind and the Milky Way from threats both domestic and intergalactic, the scientists of the Manhattan Projects and the Soviets at Star City have decided that they need to band together and use any extraterrestrial technologies available to save humanity.
To do this, both factions plan on seceding from Earthly governments so they can rule the planet through fear as a way to maintain order. Now that they’re armed with enough atomic weaponry to destroy the planet dozens of times over, who is really going to stand up to them? And, of course, the news of this secession interrupts President Harry Truman right as he is in the middle of preparing for his Masonic orgy.
As we’ve seen before in past Manhattan Projectsinstallments, Nick Pitarra's art is the perfect match for Hickman’s heady scripts. Each character is crafted with over-the-top details and humorous quirks, but the real accomplishment here is the cameo by Twinkie the Kid during Truman’s orgy.
Manhattan Projects is still the book to beat over at Image, even more so than The Walking Dead, simply due to its imagination and creativity. It’s like a retelling of U.S. history from the late ‘40s as conjured up by Kurt Vonnegut. If that doesn’t sound tempting, go read Fifty Shades of Grey.
47 Ronin #1
What it’s about: Ever since Akira Kurosawa lit up the screens with his own brand of samurai-heavy Japanese cinema in the ‘50s, Americans haven’t been able to get enough of these tales of honor and bloodshed. So it's a good thing that Dark Horse Comics has finally released its long-awaited adaptation of 47 Ronin, written by Mike Richardson and illustrated by the legendary Stan Sakai.
Japan’s national legend deals with a group of ronin—or masterless samurai—that avenges their master's death by ritual suicide, which was incited by a court official named Kira Yoshinaka. This opening issue sets the stage for what has since become one of the most famous samurai stories of all time.
Here we are introduced to Asano Naganori, a daiymo who is constantly berated by Yoshinaka due to his lower social standing. As the issue wears on, so does his patience, until the insults get to be too much and he eventually strikes the man, which is the ultimate crime during this time.
Richardson tells this story with a clarity that makes this culture easy to relate to, but it’s not so simple that it feels juvenile, either. Right away it’s hard not to root for Asano, even though we all know the fate that awaits him. The relationship we see between him and his daughter makes the later events of the issue, and what will happen in subsequent installments, all the more heartbreaking.
But 47 Ronin's real selling point is Stan Sakai's art. As the creator of Usagi Yojimbo, Sakai is right at home with these lush illustrations of feudal Japan. There's a cartoonish quality to all his work, which fits in well with the tone of the story. These broad illustrations tell a story better than any word balloon could, and each panel is a testament to his firm grip on his medium.