Graphic Novels from Breathed, Freibert, Mapa, Palmerino & Ciponte, and Debuter Whyte | Xpress Reviews

Week ending October 20, 2017

Breathed, Berkeley. Bloom County: Brand Spanking New Day. IDW. Sept. 2017. 144p. ISBN 9781684050970. pap. $19.99. COMICS
More than two decades after concluding the “Bloom County” series (1980–89), which began as an exploration of Ronald Reagan–era politics and culture, Breathed returns with all new material. Following a diverse cast of cynical adults, incorrigible children, and talking animals, the popular strip explores, through brief charming episodes, the once-fallow ground of political satire that has since exploded in the entertainment industry, with results both intelligent and hilarious. The skillfully caricatured cast is at the heart of the series’ biting wit but also creates some very touching moments. In particular, the relationship between defense attorney–turned–caregiving volunteer Steve Dallas and the ambiguously sick boy Sam the Lion, which depicts the chain-smoking Steve, a straitlaced, no-nonsense kind of guy, wearing a ratty bathrobe and carrying a bedpan while hanging out with Sam, just to cheer the kid up.
Verdict A fun, relevant series that accurately captures 21st-century America in the most comedic ways possible. [Previewed in Douglas Rednour’s “Comics Cross Over,” LJ 6/15/17.]—Alger C. Newberry III, Genesee Dist. Lib., Flint, MI

Freibert, Noel. Old Ground. Koyama. Sept. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9781927668504. pap. $18. GRAPHIC NOVELS
The ruins of a forgotten cemetery are torn down to make way for a retirement home in this massively peculiar and frequently nightmarish tale from Freibert (editor, Weird magazine). Rendered in an at times fluid, at times abrasive and psychedelic style reminiscent of comics creators Gary Panter and Brian Chippendale, it features a pair of bickering corpses so long dead that they can’t remember their names, a demonic frog, and two construction workers. The plot here is secondary to mood and tone as images shift, blend, and shred to create a sense that readers are experiencing an aging acid casualty’s nightmare filtered through a deranged child’s sensibility.
Verdict This one probably isn’t for everyone, but adventurous readers looking for something well off the beaten path and fans of an outsider-art sensibility or punk aesthetic are likely to embrace this title as if they’ve been waiting for it their whole lives.—Tom Batten, Richmond

Mapa, Lorina T. Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos and Me: A Graphic Memoir. Conundrum. Sept. 2017. 140p. ISBN 9781772620115. $18. MEMOIR
Coming of age during the 1986 Filipino People Power Revolution was no small thing. Here, creator Mapa (with Wendy Pini, Elfquest) revisits the political moment through her personal history, framing the story with the sudden death of her father, which she hears about at her home in Canada, where she’s raising her own family. As she travels back to Manila, she reflects on aspects of her Filipino identity, such as religion, the place of women in society, and political dissent. Her upbringing in the political upper class in an overwhelmingly poor country gives her an interesting, albeit privileged, perspective on events of the day. Beginning with the assassination of political exile Ninoy Aquino, the corrupt (and U.S.-supported) Marcos government became increasingly threatened by a growing populist resistance, culminating in Filipinos of all stripes taking to the streets to demand the president’s resignation. Though the structuring device of the family tragedy of a woman far from home is imperfectly integrated with the central historical narrative, both are poignant and thought provoking in their own right.
Verdict A solid historical recollection, with a smattering of personal narrative, Mapa’s memoir enlightens readers on a lesser-known and stunningly successful moment of peaceful protest.—Emilia Packard, Austin, TX

starred review starPalmerino, Dacia (text) & Andrea Grosso Ciponte (illus.). Renegade: Martin Luther; The Graphic Biography. Plough. Oct. 2017. 160p. tr. from Italian by Michael G. Parker. ISBN 9780874862072. pap. $19.95. BIOG
German theologian Martin Luther (1483–1546), driven by a deep-seated and ambitious craving to know God boldly, ventured into a dark, superstitious, and troubled world to speak his truths. Bringing scholarship and discipline to the theological arena, he helped construct the foundation upon which Protestantism was established, starting with the publication of the Ninety-five Thesis. By doing so, he precipitated the Protestant Reformation, one of the largest religious movements in history. His noble and courageous story tells how one focused individual, standing against a massive institution, can make a critical and astonishing difference.
Verdict Longtime Italian collaborators Ciponte and Palmerino present their first work in English with this earnest take on Luther’s life, wonderfully rendered through paintings and collages that dip into the biography at critical moments. YA and adult readers alike will find this work intriguing and informative.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

Whyte, Campbell. Home Time. Bk. 1: Under the River. Top Shelf: IDW. Aug. 2017. 228p. ISBN 9781603094122. $24.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
[DEBUT] Six friends having a sleepover to celebrate their graduation from primary school wind up in a magical kingdom where they are lauded as “spirits” and expected to save their elflike hosts from the warring Lizard Empire, as if the tribulations of adolescence and trying to get back home weren’t enough. Home Time’s ingredients will be familiar to readers of fantasy fiction, but it isn’t mere homage to J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and the like, although they might have appreciated how thoughtfully writer/illustrator Whyte’s first book creates this new world. Carefully filling the panels with small details, Whyte changes the drawing style as the focus shifts from character to character, even stopping the action for songs and stills depicting the story’s many environs.
Verdict Scott Pilgrim meets The Chronicles of Narnia and Where the Wild Things Are, by way of the films Labyrinth, Stand by Me, classic Nintendo, and Wes Anderson in this unique, charming blend of coming-of-age saga and fantasy worldbuilding. For fans of any or all of the preceding and YA fantasy. Some highly frightening content makes this suitable for YA readers and up. [Previewed in Douglas Rednour’s “Comics Cross Over,” LJ 6/15/17.]—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

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