Better Late Than Never Reviews - 11/24 Edition

Shortish reviews/reactions to recently read - though probably not recently published - comics. Gotta catch 'em all.

(Sorry. I've been playing a lot of Pokemon: Diamond lately. Anyhoo...)

Britten & Brulightly - An unusual and very European take on noir from English creator Hannah Berry. Fernandez Britten is a South American p.i. (though he prefers "researcher") working in the U.K., and has brought enough bad news to people over the years that he is often called "The Heartbreaker," much to his chagrin. The case of his latest client, a widow hoping to prove her husband was the victim in a blackmail/murder plot rather than a suicide, may do nothing to improve this, especially since there seem to be superficial ties to one of the most distressing cases of his past. Uncooperative potential suspects and a partner who would rather stare at the ladies (oh, and it's likely he's not even real) don't help matters much. Interesting and entertaining, and gorgeously illustrated, if a bit dense in the plot detail department (either read this all in one sitting or do a better job remembering details from the beginning than I did) and slowed down at points by the lettering. Still, an impressive debut and well worth your time, especially if you don't mind your detective fiction unabashedly quirky.

Elephantmen Vol. 1: Wounded Animals - I've only knew Richard Starkings' Hip Flask character from those Comicraft ads that ran in CBG in the 90s, so I didn't know what to expect out of a book populated by anthropomorphic hippos, elephants, and other animals, but good god damn was this an excellent read. The story of former living weapons awkwardly segued into mainstream society 200 years in the future, this is as good an example of world-building as I've read in comics in a very long time. An ongoing plot emerges over the course of the seven issues reprinted here at a deliberate, measured pace, but revelations come at what feel like very natural increments, the overall experience is so immersive that you won't care, anyway. Gorgeous artwork from the likes of Ladronn, Moritat, Chris Bachalo, and others, too. This is the total package, and I'm sorry I ever dismissed this in the past as "that book about a hippo even though elephants are in the title."

Empowered Vol. 1 - Even though this book has been a darling of the bloggyverse since it's debut, I was still really surprised by how much I enjoyed this. It's probably easy for some to dismiss it out of hand as witless fanboy stroke material - the basic premise does revolve around a clumsy superheroine who repeatedly ends up captured, half-naked, bound, and gagged, after all - but anyone who jumps to that conclusion is missing out, because Adam Warren is creating something really special here. Empowered is as fantastic, charming, and downright endearing a character as you'll ever hope to read about, and as she begins to overcome (or at least shrug off) her (perpetual) embarrassments with the help of her new, bizarre support system (ex-henchman boyfriend, female ninja best friend, imprisoned demon overlord who watches her DVDs all day), you can't help but root for her. And yeah, it doesn't hurt that Warren draws her to be sexy as hell in a style that's part manga, part Milo Manara. This is shipped to retail in shrinkwrap for a reason, people - it's not full frontal or anything (everything is strategically covered and the curse words are all blocked out), but it's pretty racy just the same. Well done, literate smut, to be certain, but still, probably not for the overly prudish. But it's also smart, funny, sweet, and it has something to say. If only more "mature" comics were this adult.

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