By Paul Pope
96 pages, black and white
Published by Horse Press
There are some things that only happen once every couple of years. Cicadas burrow out from under the ground. An ex-roommate of mine willingly decides to wash the dishes. The United States has a presidential election. And, most happily of all, Paul Pope releases a new issue of THB. And unlike the cicadas, some things are actually worth the wait.
This definitely hasn’t been the vacation that H.R. Watson was promised. She’s still on the run from the “Bugface” police, who have been chasing her all the way from her home in V-City to where her adopted brother Percy was waiting for her in P-City. Having eluded the Bugfaces across the face of Mars, though, P-City is proving to be no more of a haven than V-City was, even with the help of THB, her Supermek bodyguard. But just what is H.R. Watson’s father Clovis up to that’s stirred up the Bugfaces so much? The answer, as it turns out, may change life on Mars itself.
I’ve got to hand it to Pope; for someone who’s created a vast serialized work that shows up in flashes and doses from time to time, he’s managed to always keep it very accessible to a new reader that’s decided to wander in and see what all the fuss is about. What they’re going to find is a really nice mix between action-adventure and politics, as Pope cuts back and forth between H.R. Watson’s attempts to escape the authorities in the city and Clovis Watson’s secret deals in the wilderness of Mars. Pope has a vast history and political structure of Mars mapped out in his head, and it’s great fun to see it appear in the pages of Giant THB one piece at a time. With H.R. we’re seeing Mars through the eyes of a teenager, with all the excitement and wonder and fear coming to life. H.R. is trying to escape and survive in her immediate future, focusing very much on the now. With Clovis, we’re seeing the larger picture, with plans for the future that will reshape the life of the Olmari and others on Mars as they take destiny into their own hands. It’s a great contrast between father and daughter, looking at the generation gap and the different ends of a conflict that affects them both.
Oh, and there’s a lot of exploding and fighting going on. Pope’s slick inks explode across the page, with meks wrestling each other on the Martian surface as our heroes struggle to escape. It’s easy to see why Pope was one of the American creators that Japanese publishing giant Kodansha briefly scooped up in the ’90s; Pope is able to pack so much into a single page, effortlessly telling more in his 96 pages than many others would do in 200. A two-page sequence of Bryce fighting meks at the gates of P-City have a dizzyingly high amount of action that your eyes slide across, to the point where you’ve almost got to force yourself to stop and examine each panel to not miss all the details that Pope has carefully rendered. This is one fast-moving book, and by the time you’re done reading Giant THB 1.v.2, it doesn’t feel that long ago at all since we last saw THB.
Pope’s reformatted his signature series as Giant THB, although since he’d already published a Giant THB #1 in the past, this makes it Giant THB 1.v.2. (Or Giant THB Volume 2 #1, if Pope’s numeric notation is confusing you.) If you’ve never read THB before, Pope’s got a nice text piece at the beginning of this issue explaining everything that’s happened before. Just be warned that it’s really going to make you hope more and more for a THB collection that gathers up the out-of-print first five issues; Pope’s going to hook you that easily. Don’t worry, though; you’ll have a smile on your face the entire time.