Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare, Poe, Lovecraft: the London-based SelfMadeHero has put out some of the best comics adaptations of recent years, only some of them available in the United States. But happily for American audiences, Abrams, which has its own line of art-style graphic novels and related works, is planning to purchase the company. Abrams’s acquisition will mean that American libraries, educators, students, and appreciative comics readers can choose from a wider selection of quality classics in graphic novel form. SelfMadeHero series include “Crime Classics,” “Graphic Biography,” “Manga Shakespeare,” “Eye Classics” (Heart of Darkness, Pride and Prejudice, and many others), “Sci-Fi & Horror,” and, soon to come, “Graphic Freud.” An original fiction series is in the works also.
Allison, Rachel Hope. I’m Not a Plastic Bag. Archaia. Mar. 2012. 88p. ISBN 9781936393541. $15.95. ENVIRONMENT/F
In the North Pacific floats the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a concentrated mélange of debris shaped by ocean currents, reportedly three times the size of Texas. With lyrical and haunting painted art, Allison imagines how such an amorphous floating mass might come to be an actual island, growing out of a genesis from discarded plastic bags.
Avengers: The Road to the Avengers. Marvel. Mar. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780785162377. pap. $24.99. F
In May 2012, Marvel Studios and Disney Pictures will release the big-budget superhero film The Avengers. The movie plot begins with a massive global threat that spurs international peacekeepers to assemble a team of superheroes. Viewers not well versed in the Marvel universe may wonder where Iron Man, Captain America, and those S.H.I.E.L.D. folks came from. So voil√†: this reprint collection covering these characters’ early days to tie in with the film’s release. The stories can also serve as a prequel to the Captain America film released this past summer. Libraries that buy comic books should note too the ongoing Avengers Origins series of one-shots, spotlighting Luke Cage, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Thor of course, and more.
Barr, Mike W. & Dennis J. O’Neil (text) & Jerry Bingham & others (illus.). Batman: Birth of the Demon. DC. Mar. 2012. 296p. ISBN 9781401233815. pap. $29.99. F
A collection of three graphic novels, all previously released from 1987‚ 92, about the villain Ra’s al Ghul, exploring his convoluted relationship with Batman and the role of al Ghul’s daughter, Talia.
Carriger, Gail (text) & Rem (illus.). Soulless: The Manga. Vol. 1. Yen Pr. Mar. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9780316182010. pap. $12.99. F
Although human, Alexia Tarabotti has no soul. Yet that’s an advantage in a London where vampires and werewolves have been integrated into society but keep secrets unknown to soul-holding mortal citizens. The prose original of Soulless, the first novel in the steampunk paranormal series “The Parasol Protectorate,” won a 2010 ALA Alex Award, and Rem’s swirly shojo version might make this a good pick for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens. This volume could be followed by adaptations of the other novels in the series: Changeless, Blameless, and the forthcoming Heartless. Wanna bet Hollywood will be fighting over these? Carriger shares her hopes here.
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes. Amulet. Mar. 2012. 128p. Ed. Kazu Kibuishi. ISBN 9781419700101. $19.95. F
The short pieces in this collection, by Kibuishi, Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman, Jason Caffoe, Stuart Livingston, Johane Matte, Rad Sechrist, and others, all play with one theme: a mysterious box and the pleasures or perils it may reveal when opened. The collection is rated age nine up but surely will appeal to all ages and especially to the artistically sensitive since Kibuishi’s prior anthologies (Flight Explorer; Flight, vols. 1-8) have garnered barrels of kudos for gorgeous graphic work.
Finney, Josh & Kat Rocha. Utopiates. 01 Pub. Mar. 2012. 112p. ISBN 9780983923008. $14.99. F
In the future, you can swap personalities as easily as you can take a pill. But of course there’s a cost. This dark cyberpunk drama explores the possibility of pharmaceutically engineered personalities and the craving for experiences that can only be had by adopting other lives and memories. See the spookily photorealist art here.
Frattino, Andre R. The Reaper of St. George Street. Pineapple Pr. Mar. 2012. 280p. ISBN 9781561645176. pap. $10.95. F
Pineapple Press publishes books to make the real Florida accessible to readers nationwide. The real Florida? Pineapple already has a line devoted to Florida folklore, and now here comes their first graphic novel, an adventure about college-kid ghost hunters in St. Augustine. Kicking off a series of graphic novels about Florida paranormality, Reaper was originally self-published through Lulu with a slightly different title; see preview here.
Haddon, Cole (text) & M.S. Corley (illus.). The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde. Dark Horse. Mar. 2012. 96p. ISBN 9781595828149. pap. $14.99. F
Jekyll-Hyde against Jack the Ripper: one monster deserves another. Playing Lestrade to Jekyll-Hyde’s Holmes is at-wit’s-end Inspector Thomas Adye of Scotland Yard, who springs Jekyll from prison just to solve the Ripper case. Adye figures that this new criminal may be using Jekyll’s mind-splitting serum, and Jekyll agrees. But the hunters will have to take the serum, too, to catch the hunted. Attractive, realistic art with especially good coloring.
Heroic: A Womanthology. IDW. Feb. 2012. 300p. Ed. Renae De Liz & others. ISBN 9781613771471. $50. F
Nearly 150 estrogenista comickers, ranging from relatively inexperienced to Marvel and DC veterans, contributed to this collection of short stories around the theme of heroism. Extra features include professional how-to’s, a kids/teens section, and profiles of iconic female comic creators past. DeLiz used Kickstarter to raise a windfall of $109,301 to support production, four times the original goal. What’s left over will fund follow-up comics projects from women creators, and profits will go to the charities of GlobalGiving.org.
Hopeless, Dennis (text) & Jamie McKelvie (illus.). X-Men: Season One. Marvel. Mar. 2012. 136p. ISBN 9780785156451. $24.99. F
You only think you know the story! reads Marvel’s promotional copy. The publisher is hoping to pull in the old guard of fanfolk as well as newbies with this re-envisioned version of the X-Men origin story. Professor Charles Xavier wants to recruit powerful mutants to help save the world, but he’s up against the teenage angst and raging hormones of his temperamental new charges. As explained in USA Today, Marvel is launching a Season One line of original graphic novels bringing a modern voice and sensibility to classic tales first told in the 1960s. The line kicked off with Fantastic Four: Season One in February and will pick up Daredevil and Spider-Man later this spring. This is apparently a parallel Marvel effort to DC’s 52 series relaunch.
Huppen, Hermann. Afrika. Dark Horse. Mar. 2012. 64p. ISBN 9781595828446. $15.99. F
In this thriller, a Tanzanian wildlife preserve is threatened by mysterious agents of the foreign-backed government who are also attacking a nearby village. Dario, the preserve’s guardian and a misanthropic European expat, and na√Øve journalist Charlotte find their hands full as they try to protect the preserve and expose government corruption without being killed. Huppen is well known under the working name of Hermann in his native Belgium. Sample his compellingly grungy color art on this Dutch website.
Kanigher, Robert (text) & Ross Andru & others (illus.). Showcase Presents: The Losers. Vol. 1. DC. Mar. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9781401234379. pap. $19.99. F
A DC war series starting in the 1970s, The Losers teamed up several World War II-era soldiers who had appeared separately in other adventures. Originally, the stories emphasized the uglier side of war, although the later Jack Kirby episodes changed the direction a bit. A somewhat different Vertigo series with the same title was made into a film. Both the Kirby stories and the Vertigo series have already been collected.
Kimura, Shinichi (text) & Sacchi (illus. & adapt.). Is This a Zombie? Vol. 1. (Kore wa Zombie Desu-ka?) Yen Pr. Mar. 2012. 160p. ISBN 9780316210362. pap. $11.99. F
High school slacker Ayumu Aikawa ends up dead by the hands of a mysterious serial killer. But he should look on the bright side: he’s resurrected as a zombie by a necromancer. Maybe not so hunky-dory, though: Ayumu finds himself accidentally stuck with the appearance, persona, and frilly dress of a magical warrior girl and must manhandle a pink chainsaw. And, of course, his roommates are a bunch of other magical and very pretty girls, including a voluptuous vampire ninja. Very popular in Japan, the original light novel series has spawned several other manga series, an anime, and an audio-drama.
Martin, George R.R. & Daniel Abraham (text) & Tommy Patterson (illus.). A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel. Vol. 1. Bantam. Mar. 2012. 176p. ISBN 9780440423218. $25. F
Abraham spilled the magic formula: a page of art for every page of text in the mizillion-selling first volume of fantasy-meister Martin’s hyperhot epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. So seems like we’re looking at four volumes for the Thrones graphic novel. Patterson’s majestic and lovely art promises a worthy vision for Martin’s warring dynasties of Westeros. A must-buy for libraries, this adaptation could set an admirably high standard for novel-based comics.
Mayer, Sheldon (text) & Joe Kubert & Nestor Redondo (illus.). The Bible. DC. Mar. 2012. 64p. ISBN 9781401234256. $29.99. RELIGION
Not the whole Holy Book in 64 pages, but the earliest chapters of Genesis, released originally in 1975 as a comic book. Long out of print and a collector’s item, this work boasts lovely interior draftsmanship from Kubert and Redondo and a cover from Kubert (Fax from Sarajevo; Sgt. Rock; Yossel). More volumes were planned but never appeared. Certainly less edgy than Robert Crumb’s literal version, stories here include the creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel, and Sodom and Gomorrah.
Miller, Frank (text) & David Mazzucchelli (illus.). Batman: Year One; Deluxe Edition. DC. Mar. 2012. 144p. ISBN 9781401233426. $24.99. F
Miller’s classic 1987 tri-character origin story of Batman, Police Commissioner Gordon, and Catwoman has been widely praised as a classic, and earlier editions are held by maybe a thousand libraries worldwide. This deluxe hardcover includes new introductions by Miller and Mazzucchelli, loads of reproductions of original pencils, promotional art, unseen Mazzucchelli Batman art, Richmond Lewis’s color samples, script pages and other surprises. It’s unclear whether these extras are different from the extras in the 2005 reprint, but certainly libraries newly building up their adult graphic novel collections will want this one.
Mizuki, Shigeru. NonNonBa. Drawn & Quarterly. Mar. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9781770460720. pap. $26.95. F
Mizuki is the one-armed artist who thinly fictionalized his World War II combat horrors into the acclaimed Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths, an LJ Best Graphic Novel of 2011. The forthcoming release‚ the first manga to win the Angoul√™me Prize for Best Album‚ is described by the publisher as a poetic memoir detailing [Mizuki's] interest in yokai‚ that is, spirits and monsters of Japanese tradition. This memoir is also fictionalized. The Japanese title is NonNonBa to Ore, or NonNonBa and me, NonNonBa being the name of the grumpy grandmother who encouraged the author’s childhood interest in the supernatural.
Shintani, Kaoru. Young Miss Holmes: Casebook 1‚ 2. Seven Seas. Mar. 2012. 382p. ISBN 9781935934868. pap. $16.99. F
This historical mystery manga introduces Christie, the precocious young niece of Sherlock Holmes who helps her uncle and Dr. Watson solve mysteries. Her sidekicks: her giant dog Nelson and her maid Nora, who can swing a mean whip. Reportedly, she’s the daughter of Mycroft Holmes (who knew?), and the series is ongoing through seven volumes so far in Japan under the title Christie High-Tension. Christie loves gorgeous gowns, too. Shintani is known in Japan for Area 88 (licensed in English in the 1980s) and Cleopatra DC.
Tabuchi, Kenkou (text) & Kotomi Tobashi (illus.). Captain Commando: The Greatest Hero of All Time. Vol. 1. Udon. Mar. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781926778402. pap. $19.99. F
Originally starring in a coin-op, thump-’em videogame, the Captain delivers justice in a dystopically future Metro City together with his three superhero sidekicks: ninja Ginzu, mummy Mack, and baby Baby Head. Their enemies: the supervillainous Lord Scumocide leading a gang of mutant maniacs. Let’s hope this is as entertaining as it could be.
Tani, Mizue (text) & Ayuko (illus. & adapt.). The Earl and the Fairy. Vol. 1. VIZ Media. Mar. 2012. 184p. ISBN 9781421541686. pap. $9.99. F
So maybe fairies will be the new vampires? Lydia Carlton, age 17, is nicknamed the Fairy Doctor since she can see fairies and even understand them. Then, on a ship to London, she meets a charming young man who hires her as an advisor in his quest to find a sword that was supposed to be handed down to him by his family. The handsome Edgar turns out to be the Legendary Earl of the Blue Knights, and of course he is more complicated than he seems. So is she, actually. The lavish shojo art with period Victorian trappings makes this one quite lovely. Up to four volumes in Japan, and ongoing. There’s an anime, also.
Tolvanen, Juhani. Moomin Every Day: Tove and Lars Jansson and the Creation of the Moomin Comic Strip. Drawn & Quarterly. Mar. 2012. 136p. glossary. ISBN 9781770460430. $22.95. GRAPHIC ARTS
Whimsical and charming, Moomin’s all-ages (mis)adventures suggest an Alice in Wonderland dream world full of odd beings, unexplained connections, and events that freewheel out of control‚ almost. Originated by the late Finnish artist Tove Jansson, the Moomin stories have appeared in nine comics collections, five picture books, and an internationally syndicated 1950s‚ 70s comic strip in London’s The Evening News, co-created by her brother Lars. This historical biography by Tolvanen, a journalist and friend of Tove Jansson’s, covers artists, stories and characters, and the wide international following.