Category Archives: Euro Comics

Review: In Vitro

In Vitro

In Vitro is a sweet, funny French graphic memoir by cartoonist William Roy about him and his wife’s quest to have a child via in vitro fertilization. What follows is an emotional, educational, and sometimes downright hilarious look at the IVF process. Guillaume (The protagonist) and Emma deal with all kinds of doctors with weird bedside manners, all kinds of invasive medical procedure, their friends and families, and the comic’s biggest subplot: Guillaume’s strained relationship with his biological father, Jean-Pierre.

In Vitro is rendered with a light, cartoonish touch from Roy, who has a background in documentary filmmaking, and agilely transfers this skill set to comics. This is evident in Guillaume using cinema to make sense of stressful situations like a memory of falling in love with movies when his dad took him to Empire Strikes Back when he was a child to an IVF doctor reminding him of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry.

The cinematic influence is most seen in some of the techniques that Roy uses to tell the story like a kind of Super 8, reel to reel panel layouts to show how he fell in love with his wife Emma, and later on, to show how he lost touch with his father. The color palette is the difference is the scene with Roy choosing a more romantic palette for the love story and a dark, melodramatic one for the father/son story. The shift in panel style also signals to the reader that these sequences add important context and layers to In Vitro‘s key relationships: Guillaume and Emma and Guillaume and his father.

On the flip side, Roy is also a master of storytelling in a single image. Think New Yorker single panel cartoon, not a superhero splash page, or God forbid, Family Circus. He uses a lot of white space on these pages, which boosts the importance of the art in the scene. Sometimes, Roy even drops the dialogue out like when he draws a panel of the sterile container with his semen at the doctor’s office, hoping, that this time it will lead to a viable embryo and then a child. Other times, he uses it to emphasis a plot point, like a cliffhanger in a serial comic, like when his dad sends him an email: his first contact in 20 years.

William Roy’s sense of humor in In Vitro is what endeared me to his work and to this book. His first great gag in the comic is when Guillaume sees a doctor holding something that looks like rosary beads in spectacularly awkward scene at his and Emma’s first IVF appointment. An intern is present so Guillaume is definitely feeling uncomfortable, and that feeling is tripled when he finds out that what he thought were rosary beads is a medical device that is used to measure his testicles. Roy finds the funny, surreal in all of it, and makes quite a few masturbation jokes as Guillaume and Emma deal with rude, incompetent doctors and finally find someone good ones thanks to his surprisingly compassionate boss at the TV network where he works as a film editor. Also, he goes into full cartoon mode every time he explains the medical context of the story and even creates a silly, exasperated doctor character to deliver the exposition in an amusing way.

Speaking of the boss, William Roy, for the most part, avoids stock character types in his storytelling in In Vitro and instead revels in the idiosyncracy of human nature. One gynecologist seems sleazy, not making eye contact while he converses with while an anesthesiologist is a terse, bundle of nerves quickly asking Emma what kind of anesthesia she would like during the IVF process. To go with the cinematic elements again, Roy is a skilled cast director, picking the right character actors to people the halls, offices, and corridors of the clinics and hospitals that Guillaume and Emma find themselves at.

William Roy is vulnerable, funny, and turns in some great sequential storytelling In Vitro showing a real mastery of layout, color palette, and having symbolism tie into the story instead of just having it to make him look clever. He can do both sad (Guillaume looking at the kids with their parents on the playground.) and wacky (Guillaume as a sperm) and is a cartoonist who I would definitely want to see more of.

Story: William Roy Art: William Roy
Story: 8.6 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

Humanoids/Life Drawn provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Milo Manara honors the heroic women of the COVID-19 pandemic

Legendary Italian artist Milo Manara has a niece that works as a nurse, an essential worker. She’s in the trenches, right smack in the middle of one of Europe’s most worrying Coronavirus hotzones: Italy. Manara, inspired by the work his niece and every other essential worker takes on daily despite the risk of infection, has taken to pen, paper, and ink to recognize the degree of heroism each one represents in a series of illustrations dedicated to them.

by Milo Manara

Fans of Manara expect erotic and sensual explorations of female beauty, the politics of sex, and even the more deceitful aspects of sex as a means of control (see his work on The Borgias, co-created with Alejandro Jodorowsky). For his COVID-19 Heroes illustrations, Manara reins in the eroticism to focus entirely on showing his gratitude to the women who brave the virus to fulfill essential duties.

Manara started posting these illustrations on his Facebook and Instagram pages on March 15, starting with a piece called “It’s You Against Me, Now!” in which a nurse stares down a giant COVID-19 molecule. He captioned the post with a simple yet resounding “Grazie.”

“It’s You Against Me, Now,” Milo Manara

The illustrations feel like an attempt at preserving the memory of these workers as a means to keep a visual record of the things women have put on the line to help keep the world turning. They still have the overall look and feel of the women Manara is famous for illustrating, but the purpose is to provide a visual profile that kind of speaks for itself at a mere glance. And it succeeds in every aspect.

Another valuable and important point Manara makes through this project relates to the very definition of ‘essential.’ We see nurses and teachers, but we also see vendors, women doing deliveries, supermarket cashiers, and crossing guards, all presented as equally important. It’s as if Manara’s urging us to recognize that all work is essential, regardless of its nature.

by Milo Manara

Milo Manara is currently 74 years of age, so he’s in one of the more vulnerable groups of people affected by the pandemic. According to a Heavy Metal article, he’s surviving by staying inside with the help of his daughter, who brings him groceries and supplies. In essence, this is Manara paying his debt back.

For the full gallery of Manara’s COVID-19 heroes, click here.

Review: In Vitro

In Vitro

In Vitro is a sweet, funny French graphic memoir by cartoonist William Roy about him and his wife’s quest to have a child via in vitro fertilization. What follows is an emotional, educational, and sometimes downright hilarious look at the IVF process. Guillaume (The protagonist) and Emma deal with all kinds of doctors with weird bedside manners, all kinds of invasive medical procedure, their friends and families, and the comic’s biggest subplot: Guillaume’s strained relationship with his biological father, Jean-Pierre.

In Vitro is rendered with a light, cartoonish touch from Roy, who has a background in documentary filmmaking, and agilely transfers this skill set to comics. This is evident in Guillaume using cinema to make sense of stressful situations like a memory of falling in love with movies when his dad took him to Empire Strikes Back when he was a child to an IVF doctor reminding him of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry.

The cinematic influence is most seen in some of the techniques that Roy uses to tell the story like a kind of Super 8, reel to reel panel layouts to show how he fell in love with his wife Emma, and later on, to show how he lost touch with his father. The color palette is the difference is the scene with Roy choosing a more romantic palette for the love story and a dark, melodramatic one for the father/son story. The shift in panel style also signals to the reader that these sequences add important context and layers to In Vitro‘s key relationships: Guillaume and Emma and Guillaume and his father.

On the flip side, Roy is also a master of storytelling in a single image. Think New Yorker single panel cartoon, not a superhero splash page, or God forbid, Family Circus. He uses a lot of white space on these pages, which boosts the importance of the art in the scene. Sometimes, Roy even drops the dialogue out like when he draws a panel of the sterile container with his semen at the doctor’s office, hoping, that this time it will lead to a viable embryo and then a child. Other times, he uses it to emphasis a plot point, like a cliffhanger in a serial comic, like when his dad sends him an email: his first contact in 20 years.

William Roy’s sense of humor in In Vitro is what endeared me to his work and to this book. His first great gag in the comic is when Guillaume sees a doctor holding something that looks like rosary beads in spectacularly awkward scene at his and Emma’s first IVF appointment. An intern is present so Guillaume is definitely feeling uncomfortable, and that feeling is tripled when he finds out that what he thought were rosary beads is a medical device that is used to measure his testicles. Roy finds the funny, surreal in all of it, and makes quite a few masturbation jokes as Guillaume and Emma deal with rude, incompetent doctors and finally find someone good ones thanks to his surprisingly compassionate boss at the TV network where he works as a film editor. Also, he goes into full cartoon mode every time he explains the medical context of the story and even creates a silly, exasperated doctor character to deliver the exposition in an amusing way.

Speaking of the boss, William Roy, for the most part, avoids stock character types in his storytelling in In Vitro and instead revels in the idiosyncracy of human nature. One gynecologist seems sleazy, not making eye contact while he converses with while an anesthesiologist is a terse, bundle of nerves quickly asking Emma what kind of anesthesia she would like during the IVF process. To go with the cinematic elements again, Roy is a skilled cast director, picking the right character actors to people the halls, offices, and corridors of the clinics and hospitals that Guillaume and Emma find themselves at.

William Roy is vulnerable, funny, and turns in some great sequential storytelling In Vitro showing a real mastery of layout, color palette, and having symbolism tie into the story instead of just having it to make him look clever. He can do both sad (Guillaume looking at the kids with their parents on the playground.) and wacky (Guillaume as a sperm) and is a cartoonist who I would definitely want to see more of.

Story: William Roy Art: William Roy
Story: 8.6 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

Humanoids/Life Drawn provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Freeway Fighter #1

While I never played any of the legendary Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks created by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson in 1982, I remember Freeway Fighter being somewhere on the shelves of one of the comic/game shops I worked at during my teens and early 20s. My introduction to Livingstone and Jackson’s worldbuilding with Games Workshop and its numerous games, but Freeway Fighter stood out during its release by deviating from the usual mix of orcs, goblins and cave-trolls. The series went on to sell over 18 million copies worldwide and is translated in over 30 languages.

35 years later, we’re getting another chance to drive in that classic setting with a new comic series being released May 17, 2017, written by Andi Ewington and Livingstone, with art by Simon Coleby and Len O’Grady and publishing by Titan Comics.

Former I-400 Driver Bella De La Rosa is one of the 15% – living every day as if it were her last. Now, eighteen months after the collapse of civilization, faced with a new world order where violence and chaos rule the Freeway, she must hone her racing skills and survive any way she can!

The first issue is all set up introducing us to De La Rosa and then jumping ahead post collapse as she drives to survive. It’s a solid start in world building allowing readers to slowly learn about the world they’re thrust in to slowly teasing out just enough to get us to come back more. Ewington and Livingstone together have put together a first issue that feels familiar, but still very entertaining. Normally this world setting is fueled by macho male leads with women acting in a subserviant role. Their choice of Bella De La Rosa as the hero around which this series rotates is brilliant in that it adds in the excellent story choice made in Mad Max: Fury Road one that flipped the formula in some ways. The two writers give us a nod and wink of what we can expect by doing so and fills in a gap that so far no one has really picked up on, the gear head apocalypse story with some girl power acting as nitrous boost. That simple decision is one of many that makes the series stand out.

Coleby and O’Grady on art deliver a visually solid story with enough detail for us to sus out what might have happened in the months since collapse. Materials laying about, the design of vehicles, clothes being worn, those visuals all help tell the story and fill in gaps that haven’t been spelled out yet.

Freeway Fighter #1 feels like the start of a badass story that takes the original roleplaying game and infuses it with other elements that have been added to the genre since. Strap in for an entertaining ride.

Story: Andi Ewington and Ian Livingstone Art: Simon Coleby and Len O’Grady
Story: 8.45 Art: 8.45 Overall: 8.45 Recommendation: Buy

Titan Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Early Review: Freeway Fighter #1

While I never played any of the legendary Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks created by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson in 1982, I remember Freeway Fighter being somewhere on the shelves of one of the comic/game shops I worked at during my teens and early 20s. My introduction to Livingstone and Jackson’s worldbuilding with Games Workshop and its numerous games, but Freeway Fighter stood out during its release by deviating from the usual mix of orcs, goblins and cave-trolls. The series went on to sell over 18 million copies worldwide and is translated in over 30 languages.

35 years later, we’re getting another chance to drive in that classic setting with a new comic series being released May 17, 2017, written by Andi Ewington and Livingstone, with art by Simon Coleby and Len O’Grady and publishing by Titan Comics.

Former I-400 Driver Bella De La Rosa is one of the 15% – living every day as if it were her last. Now, eighteen months after the collapse of civilization, faced with a new world order where violence and chaos rule the Freeway, she must hone her racing skills and survive any way she can!

The first issue is all set up introducing us to De La Rosa and then jumping ahead post collapse as she drives to survive. It’s a solid start in world building allowing readers to slowly learn about the world they’re thrust in to slowly teasing out just enough to get us to come back more. Ewington and Livingstone together have put together a first issue that feels familiar, but still very entertaining. Normally this world setting is fueled by macho male leads with women acting in a subserviant role. Their choice of Bella De La Rosa as the hero around which this series rotates is brilliant in that it adds in the excellent story choice made in Mad Max: Fury Road one that flipped the formula in some ways. The two writers give us a nod and wink of what we can expect by doing so and fills in a gap that so far no one has really picked up on, the gear head apocalypse story with some girl power acting as nitrous boost. That simple decision is one of many that makes the series stand out.

Coleby and O’Grady on art deliver a visually solid story with enough detail for us to sus out what might have happened in the months since collapse. Materials laying about, the design of vehicles, clothes being worn, those visuals all help tell the story and fill in gaps that haven’t been spelled out yet.

Freeway Fighter #1 is out in about a month which gives you time to pre-order it from your shop and hop on board what feels like the start of a badass story that takes the original roleplaying game and infuses it with other elements that have been added to the genre since. Strap in for an entertaining ride.

Story: Andi Ewington and Ian Livingstone Art: Simon Coleby and Len O’Grady
Story: 8.45 Art: 8.45 Overall: 8.45 Recommendation: Buy

Titan Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Start Again #1

In it’s simplest form, Start Again is a boy meets girl story, except the boy is really a superhero who doesn’t tell the girl and she finds out during their one-night stand. Set in the United Kingdom the series creates a unique twist with the inclusion of paparazzi, something that’s not quite as big as a thing here in the United States. That aspect is original in a lot of ways as the intersection of superherodom and celebrity isn’t something that’s explored a lot in the world of comics.

In Start Again, Ajay Verma and Natalie Brown meet in a Nightclub in Leeds city centre and from there they really get to know each other. Unfortunately, it looks like Verma has a little PTSD and freaks out which leads to the nation to catching a bit more of a look at him than spandex allows. There’s solid comedy to that and writer Jamie Me digs into that a little, but mainly focuses on the dramatic aspects of it all, with some good laughs too.

What happens when the world catches a hero in his birthday suit? It’s something we see with celebrities and the first issue touches on the shark-like attitude and voyeuristic tendencies of the public when presented with such a situation. The first issue can only give so much but this first issue spends a lot of time discussing the aftermath. While the comic features a superhero in spandex there isn’t a lot of superheroing going on. It’s more focused on the fallout of everything in the I’m staying at home and eating a pint of Ben and Jerrys while I wallow in my misery. It’s relatable in that way and also a nice change from spandex battles.

The art by Toni Doya and colors by Sean Callahan is solid with some great sequences and good amount of detail. The comedic moments are played well and the more introspective moments have a bit of a down vibe to it. In other words, the art nails the mood of the scenes and does so in a way that it enhances it all. It’s also nice to see a non-white superhero in the lead as well as full frontal male nudity. The comic is equal in that department.

Start Again #1 is a solid debut and is a comic I want to read more of. It’s a nice break from traditional superhero comics and goes in a direction we’re not really seeing elsewhere. It’s original, fun, entertaining, and stands out from a crowded market of spandex and punching.

Story: Jamie Me Art: Toni Doya Colors: Sean Callahan
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Graphic Policy was provided with a FREE copy for review

Europeans in New York coming this April

Europe Comics, the all digital all European comics and graphic novel venture, is bringing two of Europe’s most celebrated graphic novel creators to New York City for a series of events as part of its Europeans in New York campaign.

Award-winning European creators Blutch (France) and Wojciech Stefaniec (Poland) will be visiting the Society of Illustrators’ MoCCA Arts Festival on April 1-2 and participating in a series of talks with fellow American cartoonists David Mazzucchelli, Charles Burns, Richard McGuire and Ben Katchor, moderated by Françoise Mouly, Bill Kartalopoulos and Dan Piepenbring in various venues and bookshops across New York.

Europeans in New York is organized in partnership with MoCCA, New York Review Comics, Albertine Bookshop, Comics@ Columbia, La Maison Française, School of Visual Arts, Polish Cultural Institute, Greenwich Library.

Euro Thursday: The Killer Volume 5: Fight or Flight

killer_v5_hc_coverGet inside the mind of a professional assassin, a man of few scruples, nerves of steel, and a steady trigger finger. A man whose crimes might be catching up with him. A man on the verge of cracking…

For four volumes writer Matz and artist Luc Jacamon have taken us into the world of Frank aka Killer, a hitman lost in a world without a moral compass. The noir series involves everything you’d want from the subject and genre including solid action sequences, loose morals, sex, violence, and political intrigue. This fifth volume brings to a close a series that has presented a fascinating outlook on the world from a completely non-American centric viewpoint. With that, it has challenged, intrigued, and created what’s probably a much more realistic worldview.

And that worldview continues here as Killer wraps up his adventure, but how will he go out? That’s the question I had as I read every page hoping for the best and expecting the worst. Instead of the flash and action, we get an epilogue in many ways. It’s a subdued entry in what generally has been a fast paced series. Much of this entry is from Killer’s perspective as he thinks through what he thinks of the world, settling down, history, and society, and his role in it all. It’s a comic that has our anti-hero taking stock of his life and figuring out what’s next.

This work is dense forcing you to parse each section of dialogue and contemplate what’s being said. But, it’s not as simple as a couple of words. Those matched with Jacamon’s art creates a combination where deeper meaning is as much as what’s being shown as what’s being said. It’s a combination that’s unmatched in comics today and they’ve pulled it off for five volumes.

But even without its synergy with the words, the art is utterly beautiful to look at in a style that’s unrivaled. Lush beaches, beautiful oceans, vibrant jungles, the art and the coloring is jaw dropping and worth the price of admission alone. Like the story itself, the art is sexy and cool creating a world you want to live in now matter how wrong things may be.

I expected a shootout finale with bodies piling up and our protagonist maybe not making it through, and instead, we are given a finale that’s an introspective search as to one’s role in the world. Even with those final pages I found myself still debating the deeper meaning of the series and what it was trying to said and what it has said, and more importantly how I agree or disagree with it. Matz and Jacamon have capped off an impressive run with an ending that delivers and then some. A perfect end cap for one of the most entertaining series in comics.

Story: Matz Art: Luc Jacamon
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

BOOM! Studios/Archaia provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Euro Thursday: Jewish Brigade Vol. 1: Vigilante

the-jewish-brigade-vol-1For this first installment of The Jewish Brigade, we find ourselves in 1945 Poland. Leslie and Ari, two British soldiers, carry out an ambush near a church. They’re looking for a priest… that Leslie then kills. He was an SS agent. The two men get back on the road; other missions await.

Written and with art by Marvano, The Jewish Brigade is a bit of historical fiction about one of the more unknown pieces of history. This French graphic novel is an interesting mix of drama, a war comic, and some introspection, about a dark time for the world as it woke up to the horrors recently committed and as the graphic novel shows, still being committed.

Through the main characters, Leslie and Ari, the case for Israel, the plight of the Jewish people, and the impact of the atrocities committed by the Nazis are all explored and discussed. The story itself is simple, the two soldiers are on a mission to kill Nazi soldiers hiding out after the war. But, that simplicity in story is juxtaposed for what happens between missions as these two soldiers talk about what has happened and what might happen.

That discussion, while not deep, feels natural as two friends, road tripping in a way, discuss matters at hand. And by not diving too deep in the topics brought up, the author allows us the reader to reflect on what’s put forth and come up with our own thoughts about it all. There’s even a discussion as to whether these revenge killings make our two characters as bad as who they’re hunting (a debate that feels like it’d fit right into the Nazi-punching debates going on today). And throughout, the horrors of the Holocaust and rampant anti-Semitism that still exists today is on our minds. The comic is history, but it’s relevant in today’s world.

The art has an almost animated style to it as far as look and the horror of what’s going on is contrasted with at times beautiful art and scenery. Rolling hills give way to dead bodies. A quiet village hides a monster within. All done in a style that doesn’t match the rather heavy content within, and it still totally works.

The concept of the graphic novel intrigued me when I first read it and after finishing the first volume I plan on checking out the next two to see where the story goes from here. Marvano takes us through the ranks of one of the least known divisions of the British army and gives us a lot to chew on while doing so.

Story: Marvano Art: Marvano
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Europe Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Euro Thursday: Warhammer 40,000 in Comics

Warhammer 40,000 logoSince 1987 the grimdark future has only seen war (on the tabletop) courtesy of British game company Games Workshop‘s Warhammer 40,000 created by Rick Priestley. The game was a futuristic companion to Warhammer Fantasy Battle.

Set in the 41st millennium, humans have settled on millions of worlds ruled by a brutal theocratic regime known as the Imperium of Man and the God-Emperor of Mankind. Corruption, bureaucracy, technological stagnation and escalating war have kept the Imperium teetering on the brink of collapse as they battle hostile forces within and out.

Through seven game editions, numerous book tie-ins, and more, the world is one of the most in-depth science fiction universes out there.

It should be no surprise that this vision of the future has led to comic spin-offs courtesy of a few publishers in different ways.

Warhammer_40K_WOI_01_Cover_BOriginally parts of their own publications, Warhammer 40K comics appeared in the anthology Inferno! magazine and Warhammer Monthly (later Warhammer Comic) published by Black Library who later would also release original graphic novels and floppy comics. The comics were well received with some nominated for various awards and featuring talented creators such as Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Pat Mills, Ian Edginton, and David Pugh.

In 2006 BOOM! Studios took over production and released their own line of comics based in the popular gaming world. About a half-dozen different titles were released by the comic publisher before their loss of the license in 2009 for unknown reasons.

In 2016 Titan Comics announced their licensing of the world and so far have produced one comic series with another announced.

Titan’s Warhammer 40,000: Will of Iron follows Baltus, a Dark Angel newly-elevated to the rank of Space Marine, as he is baptized on the bloody battlefield and uncovers the price his Chapter has paid for victory! The series dives into some of the rich history of the universe going back quite some time but is also enjoyable for those new and interested in checking out what it’s all about. This week sees the release of the fourth issue wrapping up the initial arc and setting up future conflict to come.

Independent publisher TPub also released Eisenhorn: Xenos, a tie-in to a recent video game set in the universe.

From tabletop to printed page, Warhammer 40,000 gives fans the ability to not just read about this universe but then take the battle to the tabletop in the miniature game creating a cross-media experience unique in its offerings.

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