Graphic Novels: Gorman, King & Co., Pope & Villarrubia, Willingham, plus a Debut | Xpress Reviews

Week ending November 13, 2015

Gorman, Zac (text) & CJ Cannon & Ryan Hill (illus.). Rick and Morty. Vol. 1. Oni. 2015. 125p. ISBN 9781620102817. pap. $19.99. SF/HUMOR/ADVENTURE
Aside from the normal difficulties inherent in being young, such as school and the trials and tribulations of parents, siblings, and friends, Morty also has to deal with his grandfather Rick, a cracked scientific genius with authority issues. Under Rick’s belch-fueled tutelage, the daringly duplicitous duo embark on various outrageous adventures, including making a fortune in the stock market by manipulating multiple universes to ensure maximum profit, getting arrested by time police and sent to a death-maze of Rick’s design, and experiencing a haunted campground in the land of dreams. Rick’s crazy ideas keep them one step ahead of the problems he instigates, while Morty tries to maintain a level head and survive.
Verdict Based on Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s (adult swim) animated cartoon, Rick and Morty walks a shredding tightrope among slapstick, pathos, and hilarity, with unexpected twists and a healthy sprinkle of nutty sf concepts thrown in for good measure. The anthology nature of the stories means some pieces are stronger than others, but all are imaginative and will appeal to fans of weird sf humor that borders on the psychedelic. Fans of the original series will see new takes on their favorite characters.—Douglas Rednour, Georgia State Univ. Libs., Atlanta

King, Jeff & others (text) & Carlo Pagulayan & others (illus.). Convergence. DC. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9781401256869. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401262822. SUPERHERO
When the vast multiverse of worlds begins to crumble, Superman’s nemesis, the sinister alien villain Brainiac, grabs what he can, collecting fragments of dying realities and pitting them against one another in a battle to the death to see who is deserving of continued existence. Only a select group of heroes composed of alternate versions of beloved characters such as Superman, Batman (this time around it’s Thomas Wayne, father of Bruce, beneath the mask), a female Flash, and the Green Lantern can prevent a devastating war and set reality back to the status quo—or something. This volume is crammed with nonstop action and episode, but most of it seems somewhat incidental, as though dynamic visuals and epic explosions might mask an incredible lack of plot or meaningful content. This is the kind of superhero story people who denigrate superhero stories without having read any are picturing: a massive blurt of dynamic action ultimately signifying nothing.
Verdict While this title might have appeal to anyone delighted by alternate reality versions of their favorite characters or DC comics obsessives, most readers will find it an incomprehensible slog.—Thomas L. Batten, Grafton, VA

Pope, Paul (text & illus.) & José Villarrubia (illus.). Batman Year 100 and Other Tales: Deluxe Edition. DC. 2015. 240p. ISBN 9781401258078. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401262877. SUPERHERO
Pope (Battling Boy) explores the Batman mythos in this deluxe edition reprint (originally collected in 2007). The Gotham City of 2039 is a police state. Caped crusaders are outlawed, and the inmates of Arkham Asylum vanished under officially sanctioned circumstances. Resisting this totalitarian regime is a man dressed like a bat—both possibly and improbably the same Bat-Man of Gotham first sighted in 1939. Pope’s Batman is brutal and brutalized; a character we first see bleeding out from a gunshot wound during a rooftop chase. While clearly capable, this Batman has a greater support group, which includes a doctor on the police force and Robin, who is more mechanic than sidekick. There’s also Captain Gordon, the commissioner’s grandson, whose mission to uncover the truth about Batman reveals more about his family history.
Verdict Batman Year 100 is a modern classic, and this expanded collection, which includes three additional stories, editorial notes, and sketches, is worth revisiting. Pope’s take on Batman both in narrative form and his signature stylized art is brought to life by Villarrubia’s colors. This complex and unsettling indie take on Batman pays homage to previous interpretations of the Dark Knight and delights in not answering all the questions it raises.—Terry Bosky, Madison, WI

Una (text & illus.). Becoming Unbecoming. Myriad Editions. Jan. 2016. 207p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781908434692. pap. $23.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS/AUTOBIOG
becomingunbecoming111315[DEBUT] It’s 1977, and a serial killer prowls the streets of West Yorkshire, England. While the police and media obsess over sensational details about the victims’ lifestyles (demonstrating the deeply ingrained misconception that respectable, well-behaved women aren’t susceptible to sexual violence), they miss the obvious evidence and let the killer slip through their fingers, again and again. While this saga unfolds in the national headlines, 12-year-old Una, a rape victim and a social outcast branded a “slut” by her classmates, can’t help but see similarities between the so-called Yorkshire Ripper’s victims and herself and worries that she will be next. In her debut graphic memoir, author/illustrator Una reflects on the many ways that male violence against women manifests in a patriarchal society and its repercussions for everyone.
Verdict Packed with sobering statistics and personal anecdotes, Becoming Unbecoming is not an easy read, but it’s a relevant and important one. The thrust of the story can be difficult to follow as it moves between Una’s personal struggles to the broader battles of women everywhere, but adult readers interested in gender studies or confessional memoir will connect with Una’s assessment of the problem and her call to action.—Ingrid Bohnenkamp, Springfield–Greene Cty. Lib. Dist., MO

Willingham, Bill (text) & Mark Buckingham & others (illus.). Fables: The Deluxe Edition. Bk. 11. Vertigo. 2015. 456p. ISBN 9781401258269. $29.99. Rated: M. FANTASY
Consider how different the world would be if the most cherished storybook characters lived among us. Imagine the kind of peace officers necessary to protect simple humans from the evil magic and powers some legends possess. Willingham (Elementals) and his army of artists reimagine fairy tales and folklore legends as real people living in the humdrum reality that is humanity. The 11th volume collects the story arcs from single issues #86–100 of the award-winning Vertigo series. Snow White, Baba Yaga, Pinocchio, Frankenstein, and flying monkeys are only a sample of the characters depicted, but don’t expect Disney princesses and happy endings here. Readers find war and deceit at the turn of every page, with magic and spells manipulating everyone and everything. Fables, especially this collection, goes beyond the sugary sweet tales found in today’s media. The deluxe editions feature bonus extras not previously available in the single works.
Verdict This collection is full of dark imagery and scary panels, but sprinkled throughout are a few laugh-out-loud moments; recommended for fairy-tale fanatics who love some level of horror.—Teresa Potter-Reyes, Helen Hall Lib., League City, TX

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