Week ending July 20, 2012
Brubaker, Ed (text) & Darwyn Cooke (illus.). Catwoman. Vol. 1: Trail of the Catwoman. DC. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9781401233846. pap. $29.99. F/SUPERHERO
With this story, Catwoman (aka Selina Kyle) has finally found her legs. Writer Brubaker (Avengers vs. X-Men) and artist Cooke (Richard Stark’s Parker) place the iconic character into a neonoir Gotham, removing the overly sexual tone of previous renditions and adding grit and depth. Here, the reader is introduced to Catwoman as she hits rock bottom as a jewel thief and needs a big score to get back into the game. She’s also hot on the trail of a serial killer targeting her streetwalker friends. Brubaker peppers the pages with talk one would expect in a Coen Brothers’ picture or Sam Spade novel, and Cooke’s style is reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series, which also brought the feeling of noir into the Batman universe.
Verdict This first volume offers a much more complex representation of the famous Catwoman character, who plays a role in the third Christopher Nolan‚ directed Batman movie coming out on July 20. Brubaker’s writing makes the reader root for this antihero, and Cooke’s nouveau noir art feels just right. Recommended for those who enjoy crime stories, noir, and action.—Ryan Claringbole, Chesapeake, VA
Dixon, Chuck (text) & Graham Nolan & others (illus.). Batman Versus Bane. DC. 2012. 160p. ISBN 9781401233778. pap. $12.99. F/SUPERHERO
At Santa Prisca’s prison, Pena Duro, sons must serve out the sentences of their dead fathers. So Bane is born in the penitentiary, and, it is assumed, he will die there. Bane, however, has other plans. He spends his imprisonment turning himself into the perfect killing machine. When inmates are used as guinea pigs to test a serum code-named Venom, Bane finds his chance to give himself the edge he will need to escape and take on Batman. Unfortunately, readers get very little of the dramatic meeting of the two. Instead, this collection combines Bane’s origin story with Batman: Bane of the Demon #1‚ 4, so readers are treated to Bane’s entanglement with Ras Al Ghul and his daughter Talia.
Verdict Although the stories selected are well told and nicely illustrated, the collection lacks a cohesive feel and provides little insight into this complex villain. Interested readers would be better served finding Batman: Knightfall. Nonetheless, with today’s release of The Dark Knight Rises, interest in Bane is sure to be high.—E.W. Goodman, Art Inst. of Pittsburgh
Miller, Frank (text) & David Mazzucchelli (illus.). Batman: Year One. deluxe ed. DC. 2012. 144p. ISBN 9781401233426. $24.99. F/SUPERHERO
Bruce Wayne has returned to Gotham to pursue his destiny, James Gordon has come to Gotham because he has nowhere else to go. In Miller’s seminal retelling of Batman’s genesis, the two men realize they share a mission‚ ridding the city of corruption and crime, no matter how different their methods. Miller’s cinematic storytelling and Mazzucchelli’s dramatic illustrations have made this graphic novel a classic of the form and have set the tone for many of the Batman stories that followed. This deluxe reissue features new introductions and a new digital printing on glossy paper. It is not without its controversies. The new prints, for instance, have changed Richmond Lewis’s original ink work and many, including Mazzucchelli, have been critical of the coloring’s hazy look.
Verdict Demand for this landmark Batman story is sure to be high this summer with the release of The Dark Knight Rises. Most fans will be happy with this hardcover version and its extras, but comic book purists may want to stick with the older editions of Year One.—E.W. Goodman, Art Inst. of Pittsburgh
Forsythe, Matthew (text & illus.). Jinchalo. Drawn & Quarterly. 2012. 152p. ISBN 9781770460676. pap. $17.95. F/FOLKLORE
Jinchalo is a strange little wonder. The cover art‚ a girl following a laughing bird up a tree‚ suggests a children’s story, but there’s little that is childish about this book. This is the story of a girl named Voguchi who is on a nebulous, wordless quest that involves gorging on oversized sushi rolls, villages of harmless monsters, the shape-shifting crow Jinchalo (Korean for Really?), and a dream-within-a-dream visit with her creator. Using elements from Korean folktales and bits of untranslated Korean to punctuate his tale, Forsythe crafts a rich imaginary world in accessible pen and ink. In its use of foreign language and fantastical, eerily familiar surroundings, Jinchalo echoes the project of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival but with a much lighter touch.
Verdict Forsythe’s layers of images within images and interweaving of different stories subtly comment on the nature of storytelling and art and by what means we are able to understand and engage with even the most unfamiliar things. The story is accessible to anyone, young or old, interested in exercising and expanding their imagination.—Emilia Packard, Bloomington, IN
Mansbach, Adam & Douglas McGowan (text) & Owen Brozman (illus.). Nature of the Beast. Soft Skull. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9781593762452. pap. $23.95. F
Novelist Mansbach made a name for himself with the New York Times best-selling children’s book parody Go the F**k to Sleep (2011). This graphic novel does not have the same joyful sense of satire. Mansbach sets out to skewer reality TV competition shows and all the various mixed martial arts programs, as well as mock the media moguls who produce and control them. The story involves a reality competition called Beast Wars, a grandiose version of dog fighting. Instead of dogs, large predators like polar bears, apes, and sharks fight to the death. This horrible premise is just a means to an end. Earth has been challenged by disgusting aliens to a gladiator rumble; the problem is that Earth does not have a champion to compete. Enter our hero, an alligator wrestler, who is kidnapped and forced to participate in Beast Wars. Mansbach’s story is entertaining enough, if too long. Brozman’s art is attractive, but the action lacks weight and fluidity.
Verdict An extremely gruesome and bleak tale that will surely entertain a subset of twentysomethings who still play that game who would win in a fight favored by nine-year-old boys.—John Piche, MLS, San Francisco
Tezuka, Osamu (text & illus.). Dororo. Vertical. 2012. 848p. ISBN 97781935654322. pap. $24.95. F/MANGA
Cursed in the womb by his warlord father, Hyakkimaru is born without 48 organs and abandoned by his parents. After being rescued and raised by a kindly doctor, he wanders the war-torn countryside of medieval Japan slaying demons with a set of weaponized prosthetics. Accompanied by the child thief Dororo, he witnesses countless scenes of suffering brought about by supernatural forces, the greed and cruelty of humanity, and the whims of fate itself. Manga and anime legend Tezuka’s (Astro Boy) unmistakable rounded art style may initially seem out of place alongside the grim subject matter, but the combination of dynamic action scenes and truly eerie monster designs will quickly draw in readers. Vertical’s original three-volume release of Dororo won the Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material‚ Japan in 2009 and is not significantly different in content from this omnibus edition.
Verdict A welcome second chance to pick up a manga classic in a more convenient and affordable format. Highly recommended for broad graphic novel collections and Tezuka fans.—Neil Derksen, St. Mary’s Cty. Lib., Charlotte