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Second chapter of the reviews of Bonelli books made by Brian Scot Johnson (from the Khepri Comics Online site).

(Khepri Comics)
American Bonelli:
the reviews of numbers 2

editors: Marco Gremignai & Fabrizio Gallerani
Text and logo by Brian Scot Johnson
(c) 1998-1999 Khepri Comics Online

Dark Horse/Bonelli
Dylan Dog #2 (of 6)
Johnny Freak
Mauro Marcheselli /
Tiziano Sclavi
Andrea Venturi (Artist)

THE HYPE: Bonelli Comics has teamed with Dark Horse to bring Italian comics to American audiences. This episode of DYLAN DOG brings the Nightmare Investigator into contact with an unfortunate boy, a deaf-mute victim who has endured a series of seemingly senseless amputations. Dylan befriends the young lad, but can he uncover the identity of Johnny's tormentors?

THE STORY: Dylan Dog answers the door and finds an eager dog ready to drag him to the scene of the crime: the aftermath of an attack on stray dogs, ending the the deaths of many. But during the course of this investigation, Dylan uncovers the boy he names "Johnny", and focuses on helping him regain his voice - through the arts of music and paints. But worlds collide when Dylan makes advances on Dora, Johnny's nurse, and thus pieces together the answers to both mysteries!

THE WRITING: Marcheselli and Sclavi tell a haunting tale of unthinkable horrors and unforgettable emotion. There is a spirit in Johnny that rings true, rings familiar - and his friendship with Dylan brings new depths to the Nightmare Investigator. They have a mutual respect for one another; they are kindred spirits. But underneath it all is the twisted reality of civilization - a world that mocks its weak, abuses its helpless, and fears those who do not fit in. But this is much more than Mutant Hysteria a la Claremont and Byrne - this is the harsh reality of a victim thrust into the role of sideshow freak, thanks to the media.

THE ARTWORK: Andrea Venturi helps the atmosphere and emotion of this tale, rendering it in a style that seems part Bernie Wrightson, part Kevin Nowlan. It is elegant and beautiful, yet gritty and disturbing - certainly some very slick black and white work. The figures seem alive, with great detail in terms of facial expressions and body gestures. Great work.

THE BOTTOM LINE: DYLAN DOG started strong with last issue's tale of Zombies and love, but this humanitarian effort from Marcheselli, Sclavi, and Venturi certainly deserves more than a simple read - this is a book worthy of awards, not just as comics work, but in the fiction-genre. It reads like a novel, with a self-contained 100 page story, and yet its artwork paints the pictures as vivid as the most agile imagination. Easily one of the best stories in recent memory.
Grade: A.


Dark Horse/Bonelli
Martin Mystery #2 (of 6)
The sword of King Arthur
Alfredo Castelli (Writer, Creator)
Giancarlo Alessandrini (Artist)

THE HYPE: MARTIN MYSTERY #2 kicks off the first part of a 2-book story - that's 200 pages total! This time out, Castelli takes Martin on a quest that seems all too familiar, but the execution of that quest is bold and new! This is the story of Excalibur, the fabled sword, and how it was smuggled away from Hitler and his Nazi brood.

THE STORY: The Heilige Lance. The Spear of Destiny. The Holy Blade. Excalibur. What ever its name, it is known throughout time and history as a great source of power, often woven into Christian sermons, Medieval lore, and Arthurian legend. Martin stumbles across a conspiracy that wrestled this weapon from the hands of Hitler... but now he has to find the sword before religious and scientific factions uncover its true - other-worldly - origins!

THE WRITING: Castelli makes 100 pages a joy to read. This issue is packed with history and legend, facts and fiction - and he blends that line between them to perfection, in a way that only fuels the hysteria in the book. Throw in some action and humor from Java the Neanderthal Man, and MARTIN MYSTERY has plenty of plot elements and supporting characters - all demanding as much attention as the lead character himself! This reads like a self-contained story... right up to the cliffhanger ending! More comics need to read like this, demanding the same amount of time and concentration as a 2-part X-FILES Tv episode.

THE ARTWORK: Like the first issue, Alessandrini runs a little inconsistent. Some panels seem very Joe Kubert, but other sequences, especially some with Java, really get rough and sketchy. But even during the bumps, the design and storytelling are strong... Only the linework on the figures, and maybe some background detail suffers. Still the narrative laid down by Castelli picks up any slack, and together they tell a compelling story that links King Arthur to Hitler to... Martians?

THE BOTTOM LINE: MARTIN MYSTERY is an exciting adventurer, who should appeal to fans of INDIANA JONES, FOX MULDER of the X-FILES, and DC COMICS' METAMORPHO. It has a real detective / adventure pulp feel, and the mysteries seem to span the globe. Solid stuff translated from the Italian originals.
Grade: A-.


Dark Horse/Bonelli
Nathan Never #2 (of 6)
The darkness in the heart
Bepi Vigna (Writer)
Stefano Casini (Artist)
Arthur Adams (Cover)

THE HYPE: Dark Horse releases another deep, psychological book translated from the archives of Italy's Bonelli Comics. In this story, the mythos of NATHAN NEVER slams into the worlds of HEART OF DARKNESS and APOCALYPSE NOW, creating a mystery shrouded in horror - a disturbing, controversial look at "savagery" and "civilization".

THE STORY: Nathan Never goes up the river wild with a guide named Marlowe, on a quest to find one Professor Korzeniowsky. Along the way, Never discovers "The Horror! The Horror!" as Bepi Vigna and Stefano Casini wrestle the same demons that plagued Joseph Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola as they created their respective masterworks.

THE WRITING: Vigna knows his Conrad - be prepared to think, and be prepared to be awe-struck! Joseph Conrad was born Josef Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski; his most infamous character, Marlow, was his narrative voice. Odd that these names appear in this Nathan Never story... Vigna truly writes an amazing script that is not a simple retelling of HEART OF DARKNESS, but an exciting reinterpretation of Conrad.

THE ARTWORK: Stefano Casini, like Nicola Mari from Issue #1, certainly knows how to handle dark shadows and black space. His Nathan Never, even diseased and defeated, is a strong lead that demands respect, looking like a Mike Mignola inked Bart Sears figure. It may sound odd, but it really works. Other influences poke through in different scenes, but overall, the work certainly oozes with Casini's own flair / style / design. He also does some nice cartoony, almost strip-like sequences as the computer-Griot reveals the tribal history to Never. Solid stuff.

THE BOTTOM LINE: NATHAN NEVER #2 is a book that demands a second read. Reading it just once is not enough. Questions tickle the mind long after its been placed on the shelf, and soon the comic is laying alongside the HEART OF DARKNESS on the desk, as the voices of Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando echo from the Tv set in the background. This is not a comic you read. This is a comic you experience - an experience that should be critiqued and analyzed alongside its literary and cinematic forefathers. Mister Kurtz - He Dead.
Grade: A.

AFTER-THOUGHTS: Without a basic understanding of and appreciation for Conrad and his novella, this may not be quite as enjoyable. Still, it explores Nathan Never and his relationship with his father, and holds together pretty well on its own.
No knowledge of Conrad - Grade: B+.


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