Underground Reading: The Engineer Trilogy by KJ Parker

Graphic Novel Round-Up: Brought to You by the Letter P

Our latest gathering of the best & brightest in graphic novels. This time, our arbitrary theme is the letter "P". (Very, very arbitary.)


The ProgrammeThe Programme (Milligan / Smith): An American incursion into "Talibstan" inadvertently rouses a sleeping Soviet superhero. The arms race begins anew. While the Soviet superhero wakes his friends & comrades, the CIA scramble to find the dregs of their own superhero program (his name is Max). 

The series just feels dated, and not in a 'timeless' kind of way - Milligan could've just as easily written this in 1993. There are some appealing twists (he is an expertly cunning plotter), but the whole American imperialism, race war, shouty politics bits feel rehashed. This is still a pretty enjoyable comic book, but it feels well-stuck in the writer's comfort zone. (6/10)

Prisoner of the Stars (Font): This is a long-belated translation of the classic 1980's Spanish graphic novel (thank you, IDW!). In the distant future, the remnants of humanity are stuck in dystopian underground cities. Packs of renegade outsiders run on the surface. And, best of all, the sun is flaring out, spelling the planet's inevitable doom. Into this mix comes a Man with No Name. He's on the run, but he doesn't know why...

Prisoner of the Stars is frantic action, held together by staccato bursts of exposition. Everything is a bit patchy - some scenes are magnificent, whereas others are just 2000AD-style goofiness. The dialogue is no different. However, Font's artwork is breathtaking and his black & white brilliance is worth the price of admission. He's fantastic at expressions and faces (although prone to comedy breasts), which helps bring the characters to life in such a compact plot. (7/10)

Phonogram Volume 2: The Singles ClubPhonogram: The Singles Club (Gillen / McKelvie): The sequel to the indy hit, Rue Britannia, The Singles Club stands very well on its own. The entire series takes place in a single night - a night packed with magic, music and (er) mystery (for the sake of a third "m"). 

The same evening - told from six different angles - gives six very different stories, each of which builds on the one before it. Masterfully plotted and deftly composed, this is a shamelessly brilliant piece of work, obsessively organized to the last piece of detail. It is alternately funny and painful, but never anything less than clever. Easily the best graphic novel I've read so far in 2010. (10/10)