For the uninitiated, Karen Berger, to put it plainly was the founding editor of DC's Vertigo Comics imprint. She held that title from Vertigo's inception in 1993 until finally stepping down in 2012. Serving as custodian for bestselling comics such as, but not limited to Sandman, Preacher and Hellblazer. Since her departure from Vertigo/DC there haven’t be many rumblings on her resume. Not until now… Partnering up with Dark Horse Comics, Karen will be head editor for her own imprint titled Berger Books. Four titles have been announced to be released early next year. Like the time-honored tradition of marriage Karen will be bringing something old and bring something new.
We will be welcomed by 4 original titles as well as 2 Vertigo titles getting new editions. The Imprint’s first original releases will be “Mata Hari” by writer Emma Beeby and penciler Ariela Kristantina, “Hungry Ghosts” written by famed Chef Anthony Bourdain and drawn by a slew of talent such as Vanesa Del Rey, Leo Manco, Alberto Ponticelli, Paul Pope and Mateus Santolouco, “The Seeds” by David Aja and artist Ann Nocenti and lastly, “Incognegro: Renaissance” by writer Mat Johnson and artist Warren Pleece. Accompanying these titles will be a new edition of Dave Gibbon’s “The Originals” and “Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery” by Johnson and Pleece. When I start to read a new comic, I give it 4 or 5 issues. If it hasn’t gripped me by then, then I stop reading. My judgements are going to be based on details revealed so far. This article isn’t going to say if any of the titles are terrible. What it will disclose is which story should be the strongest and which the weakest. All 4 of these stories I feel will be successful. Karen garnered critical acclaim as the editor for Vertigo, I don’t see why lightning can’t strike twice. I’m not too crazy about the name though, Berger Books.
Two out of the 4 comics appeared to have mysterious, sneaky and dark themes. You could say they both have espionage undertones. I would be wrong to say they were the same. But when you compare them to the other 2 books they seem similar. Which is why I am choosing these 2 stories. Which leads me to the story “Mata Hari”. The writer, Emma Beeby has written for “Doctor Who” comics as well as contributed to the UK based anthology magazine “2000 AD”. Ariela Kristantina is no stranger to sultry women. She pencils Aftershock Comics’ “Insexts” with Marguerite Bennett, of “Animosity” fame. “Mata Hari” is about the titular femme fatale. She was a German exotic dancer who was convicted of being a spy during World War 1. She was executed in France in 1917. I do enjoy the potential of her being a female James Bond. The art will be wonderful and the story is based on true events so there will most likely be a grounding feeling. Stories based on true events, usually have this quality to draw a reader in because they can seem more relatable. I hope 5 issues will be able to contain the action! “Incognegro: Renaissance” is a prequel to the story “Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery”. Mat Johnson writes a tale of a light skinned black man posing as a white man during the Harlem renaissance to solve this thriller. As comics go, Johnson has written 4 titles for Vertigo, “Hellblazer Special: Papa Midnite”, “Incognegro”, “Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story” and “Right State”. Warren Pleece is another Vertigo Veteran. Drawing for several series including “Hellblazer”, “Incognegro”, “The Invisibles” and “Sandman Mystery Theater”. The first “Incognegro” starred an African American reporter who could pass for white. He was trying to clear the name of his darker skinned brother who was charged with murdering a white woman. This story is about that same person going undercover as white for the first time during the the Harlem Renaissance. This story is ripe for action and suspense with the jazzy light heartedness of Harlem nights. I have a feeling it will be similar to a “Fletch” story.
Now, because both stories will involve spying and suspense with a dash of mystery. I feel out of the 4 titles they are the most alike. That being said, I feel like “Mata Hari” will not have the same success as “Incognegro”. Partly because of the pedigree “Incognegro” carries with it. the creative team from the original “Incognegro” has returned to the well to tell an origin story. Origin stories do well. That will show consistency in writing and art. I also think a black man who goes undercover as a white man will strike a chord with America. America the last several years has been racially divided more so than the previous several years before that. This book will possibly connect with its readers. Mysteries are always fun to read and this story is set in the larger than life Harlem Renaissance. The atmosphere of this story will be as interesting as the plot. As I mentioned earlier, just because I am choosing one book to succeed and one book to not be as successful doesn’t make that story bad. “Mata Hari sounds like a very interesting subject. The art will be sexy and very lively. I even think a sex symbol going undercover as a spy is interesting. I just think it will not have the same success as “Incognegro” because it is a new title without a history. New titles can be intimidating at first, especially when a new title is a mini-series. The artist, at this point has garnered a fan base from her work on “Insexts”. I am not familiar with the writer’s work. I do think the story will be exciting and sex sells. I can’t attest to what the story will be like because the first issue comes out February 2018.