Nathan Never - A Review of the english editions as released by Darkhorse


nathan (1)
1. Vampyrus.
Written by Michele Medda .
Art by Nicola Mari.
Demeter, a space lab, is found to have been attacked by unknown forces and the sole survivor is Vlad Shreck, a scientist, who has no memory of the attack due to amnesia caused by heavy blow to his head. Agent Nathan Never of the Alpha detective agency is assigned the job of discovering the attackers and the cause behind the attack.

For those who haven’t guessed from the title, this story is a take on vampires or in particular, a vampire. The story borrows heavily from Dracula so much so that there is a character called Mina Harker, who, hypnotized, assists the vampire and some parts of the story, are explained via Diary notes. There is nothing new to be expected from the story and whatever part not influenced by Dracula fits the scifi thriller template perfectly. In the end, this is just a mashing up of Dracula and scifi and though the story is not bad, there is nothing revealing either. Only for a light read.
nathan (2)
2. The Darkness in the Heart.
Written by Bepi Vigna.
Art by Stefano Casini.
Nathan Never is assigned with the task of finding and bringing back Professor Korzeniowsky, who went into the jungle half a decade ago, in search of a cure for a fatal disease Kallentura. Believed dead earlier, the professor is found to have joined with the natives of the jungle and has indeed found a cure for the disease. Upon hearing the rumors, Ashton pharmaceuticals, which funded the research of the Professor, wants him back with the cure. And Nathan has to go and get him out of the savage land.
The first thing you’ll notice about the books is the splendid art by Casini. The story is all about man, nature, the balance of nature and how it is in man to disrupt that balance with unflinching ease. The climax speaks strongly of the negligence of care and understanding of mankind and how it is in his nature to destroy rather than to create. Though not as hard hitting as one would expect it to be, it is nonetheless a very good story and probably the best of this series as released by Darkhorse.
nathan (7)
3. Dirty Boulevard.
Written by Michele Medda.
Art by Gemano Bonazzi.
The story revolves around “The Dirty Boulevard”, one of the many places where death chokes out dreams. The dirty boulevard has lots of ways in affecting its inhabitants: drugs, burglary, extortion, murder and most commonly, poverty. Crime just heaps about like the trash in its streets and like the latter there is no one to clean it up. And Nathan Never is assigned with the task of catching “The Shadow”, a ruthless murderer who lurks this shady street. The art is good but the story is the usual and if you have read any of the bazillion of such sci fi stories, you won’t have any problems guessing this one.
nathan (6)
4. Tragic Obsession
Written by Michele Medda.
Art by Stefano Casini.
Rememberers are human data banks and their head, with special memory plates installed in them are most valuable for the corporations which store their secrets in them. Johann, one such rememberer is found to be killed and his head is found missing. In the missing head lies a top secret information and the corporation to which it belongs to hires Nathan Never to find out the killer and the head in his possession. The art is by Casini and though it is the same guy who did #2, something seems missing here. The story is about love and identity, but the treatment is just as superficial as most of the others in this series.
nathan (3)
5. Children of the Night
Written by Michele Medda.
Art by Nicola Mari.
It is not unknown that disgruntled or misguided youth look up to pop stars for expressions. Tadeusz, a renown goth pop star becomes the voice of the youth and commands influence as no other has ever claimed before. A group of friends decide to start up a fan club and Mina Harker joins them. But could Mina be finally peaceful or is she going to be bothered by her infamous bad luck again?
Medda again. For some reason I don’t like his stories at all. It all seems vacuous to me even if has an interesting plot some of the times. And unfortunately, even the plot is not that good here. A plot done to death (no pun intended), predictable flow of the story, uninteresting characters and superfluous treatment seems to be his trademark. Or in other words, mass entertainer.
nathan (4)
6. The Babel Library
Written by Antonio Serra.
Art by Nicola Mari.
Knowledge is power. And to control knowledge is to control the world. What if a group is controlling information about the past and would go to any measure possible, even murder, to keep it hidden from the masses? And when Never’s friend is killed, it is up to him to find out the killers and make the information reach the masses. Though indeed predictable, this is the second best story of this series and much interesting than the rest of the series as published by darkhorse. This book is bigger than the rest too. While all the other books are typically 92 to 110 pages, this one is about 144 pages. A mysterious murder, an unlikely victim,  a secret behind the murder, a lover who wants it all explained, murder on the air, and reckless violence adds up to the spice of the story. There is nothing new to any of this, but it done well enough to warrant interest.
It is to be noted here that Nathan Never was created by Medda, Serra and Vigna. Darkhorse has apparently wanted to publish the stories of these three, but Medda predominates all others. I wish they published more stories of the other guys rather than that of Medda. All the books enclose cover galleries for about 4 to 6 pages most of which are excellent. In addition to this, the first two pages of all the books contain a small article about Bonelli publishers, their books, sales and their history.
It is explained that Bonelli publishers have a format when it comes to publishing called as Formato Bonelli. Thick, 96 pages, square bound, black and white monthly books with serialized stories ranging from 96 to 300 or more pages. It is explained here that the choice of the thick paper formula is the determining factor in the success story of Bonelli. And it is to be noted here that the books published by darkhorse fit the exact pattern. I have the Dylan Dog casefiles complete book by darkhorse and it is the same format in that one too. I was informed by Shankar Armand, a friend of mine that it is the same in the case of TEX stories being published in French right now and the previous ones to publish TEX were revoked of their rights when they started making modifications. It is reasonable to infer from all this that the Bonelli publishers strictly enforce the format in all major languages of considerable attention.
But the obvious question was nagging at me. Why go this length to enforce certain measures and risk the discontinuation of foreign publishing? The article had answer in itself. From 80’s it is said that Bonelli publishers have been selling 25 million books per year or more with Tex at an average of 600 thousand books per month and Dylan Dog seeming to be at a close second of about 500 thousand books per month. It is also explained that about 250 of the talented artists and writers of Italy contribute to the success of Bonelli publishers. While the sales figure is this big, it can be understood that they indeed have the luxury to enforce whatever they desire from bigger foreign publishers or to neglect completely when it comes to the case of smaller foreign publishers. It is to be noted here that the essay has been written on 1999. I heard that the average cost of a single book is about 3 euros and approximately, the sales figure comes up to 75 million Euros per year. Out of curiosity, I searched for the sales figure of Marvel comics, which dominates the US market. I came across an article which ascertains that the sales figure of Marvel for the month of December 2012 to be 10 million US $. 
Now, back to Nathan Never, reading Never reminded me of reading Dylan Dog, another one of Bonelli publications. Dylan Dog was just the same. It was mostly mass entertainer stories, cheap, easily readable and highly collectable due to the thick paper. Atleast in the case of dylan dog, I was lucky enough to find a very good story Johnny Freak. Nathan Never did not provide me with any such luck. The nature of the entire series cannot be determined by a mere 6 books of course, but if anything is to be made out of these six, I don’t have high hopes for this series at all.