Graphic Novels from Fawkes and on Mangasia | Xpress Reviews

Week ending November 10, 2017

starred review starFawkes, Ray. Underwinter. Vol. 1: Symphony. Image. Oct. 2017. 136p. ISBN 9781534303324. pap. $9.99. Rated: Mature. HORROR
Mousy Eleanor, cautious Corben, hedonistic Kendell, and bratty Stephanie are a top-flight string quartet contracted by the enigmatic Meister Maranatha to perform at an isolated mansion with very specific instructions. They are to be dressed by staff in specific outfits, blindfolded, and must play their set perfectly from memory, terms of which they all agree to since the offered payment is substantial. The performance goes without a hitch, except that Corben’s curiosity gets the better of him, and as he peeks out from under the blindfold, he sees their sole audience is a nude half-human, half-bird being. While the band continues to give regular concerts in the venue, each musician becomes transformed in personality or body, with Corben facing the worst ordeals because he saw the thing in the audience. As our protagonists are drawn further and further into their own phantasmagoric magical mystery tour, it becomes increasingly apparent that they are fighting for their lives against an incomprehensible force whose desires are as opaque as night.
Verdict Eisner nominee Fawkes’s (Intersect; Gotham by Midnight) latest work is an overture of mythological imaginings, delicately rendered in impressionistic watercolor that perfectly matches the esoteric tale of performance and magic. Highly recommended.—Douglas Rednour, Georgia State Univ. Libs., Atlanta

Gravett, Paul. Mangasia: The Definitive Guide to Asian Comics. Thames & Hudson. Nov. 2017. 320p.illus. index. ISBN 9780500292433. pap. $39.99. COMICS STUDIES
Gravett (Comics Unmasked) here employs a broad lens to chart the development of Asian comics by examining the genesis of comic book industries throughout Asia; core themes and concepts explored by regional creators; the unfair treatment of these authors/artists by their own industry; the role that government censorship has played and continues to play in Asian comics; and the relationship between Asian comics and their film and television adaptations. Historically, Japanese manga has been an enormous influence on the continent’s comics culture, so that country receives the majority of the coverage; however, Gravett also gives space to the comparatively lesser-known traditions of China, North and South Korea, the Philippines, and India. Functioning as a primer rather than an exhaustive reference work, with key figures and series only getting the briefest of mentions, this book’s greatest draw and likely most enduring contribution is its incredible collection of hundreds of illustrations showcasing the beauty and diversity of Asian comics art throughout its history.
Verdict Owing to the dense, textbook-style writing and mature content, this is an ideal bridge for college-age readers of manga, manhwa, or other Asian genres who wish to go from being simply consumers to knowledgeable fans invested in the social, political, and artistic history of a particularly rich geographic slice of the medium.—Chuck Hodgin, Belmont Univ. Lib., Nashville

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