Opus 19:

1. Never Forever (2/9)

1. Never Forever.  Nathan Never is another character from Italy's
Bonelli Comics that is finding life on these shores thanks to the
discerning eye of Dark Horse.  In the first of a six-issue
black-and-white series, we learn that Never is an agent of Alpha
Agency, an investigative operation somewhere in the distant future.
He has been dispatched to find out what happened aboard a space lab,
the entire crew of which was viciously murdered during a
communications blackout lasting only a few hours.  Only one of the
crew survived--due, it is supposed, to his being unconscious and in
the shower at the time the vessel was, presumably, invaded by some
horde of monsters who eviscerated all the others.
     Written by Michele Medda, the story unfolds in classic suspense
fashion.  As time passes, we glimpse a little more than the
investigators do, but we are still kept mostly in the dark until
Nathan Never and his attractive cohort, Ritva Kaurismaki, uncover the
     Nicola Mari handled the art chores with stunning effect.  I'm
reminded a little of Mike Mignola's use of solid black, although in
the last analysis, the work is closer to Alex Nino's.  Mari's lines,
wayward tentacles of delineation, flex bold and black occasionally,
but they are always crisp and precise whatever their thickness.
     More than one wordless sequence showcases the storytelling panache
of Medda and Mari, but even the pacing of verbal-visual sequences
displays their mastery of the medium, stretching suspense, prolonging
the mystery, but still advancing the action and the plot,
     This is mature comics, aristotle.  Some of the telltale signs are:
     (1) The hero isn't always on camera.  And here, the story is told
through numerous other actors.
     (2) The pictorial emphasis is on storytelling, not pin-ups.
     (3) A minimum of blood-sucking visuals.  Yes, the tale involves a
species of vampirism, but our storytellers are much too sophisticated
at their craft to expend much space on the more sensational aspects
of the subject.
     Okay, there's a little female nudity, too.  But that's not what
makes the book mature.  You'll notice I don't number this aspect of
the book.  In fact, given the plot justification, there could be even
more revealing nudity than there is.  Restraint--ah, that's (4) in my
list of emblems of maturity.
     Another engaging aspect of the Bonelli series is the format.  All
the books are about 100 pages long, but the pages are 6x8" and the
books are square-bound.  This looks and feels like an adult book.  
     Despite the relatively small page size, the pictorials don't seem at
all cramped.  That may be testimony to Mari's exquisite skill in
visualizing the story, but if so, its all the more pace-setting a
maneuver.  The book is mere $4.95, too.  Climb on now: this could be
the wave of the future.

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